Yellowjackets coming out in large numbers


By Kathryn Reed

Depending on where you are in the Lake Tahoe Basin, more yellowjackets may be buzzing around compared to years past.

“The vector techs are seeing more yellowjackets this season because the winter was more mild, which allows more queens to survive through the winter. Each queen trapped in the spring represents one less nest of up to 5,000 worker yellowjackets in the summer and fall,” Karen Bender with El Dorado County Department of Environmental Health told Lake Tahoe News.

She said it’s not just Tahoe that is affected, but all parts of the county are seeing an influx of the bees.

A honeybee nest found in May by El Dorado County vector control. Photo/Provided

A honeybee nest found in May by El Dorado County vector control. Photo/Provided

On Monday her department had 16 service calls related to yellowjackets and have been averaging about 10 a day for the past week. Specialists apply a pesticide that comes in a white powder. It’s a product that is not available to the public.

“One reason we want vector control to go out is because we don’t want to kill honeybees,” Bender explained.

Honeybees are the “good” bees that are needed to keep everything pollinated; after all they are responsible for 80 percent of the insect pollination.

Yellowjackets are part of the wasp family.

County residents pay $6 a year via property taxes for vector control, so a home visit is part of taxes already paid. What workers won’t do is go inside a residence; they only deal with outside bee and wasp issues.

Yellowjackets can make nests in the ground, under decks, in walls, under eaves and other places. Because they can be on the ground it’s important to pay attention to each step to avoid being swarmed by the yellowjackets.

In the forest the bees don’t seem to be as much of a problem as in more populated areas.

Holly Holwager, a harvest inspector with Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said, “We are seeing the same amount of bees in the field, however they seem less aggressive than last field season.”

Bees and wasps are attracted to water, go after food and like to sting people, too. Last weekend a woman was stung while playing tennis at Zephyr Cove park.

Bee and wasp stings can be lethal for people who are allergic to them.

Warren Withers, director of Barton Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, said he has noticed more people coming in with stings this year compared to last year.

“When we do see the stings they can cause a variety of reactions – from minor irritation to more serious allergic reactions,” Withers told Lake Tahoe News. “They do tend to be more numerous and more aggressive in September-October, especially as the weather cools, until the first hard freeze.”

Barton Urgent Care and Family Practice has also had an uptick in sting cases recently, but so far their numbers have not surpassed 2012 figures.

The medical advice is that minor stings should be treated with Benadryl and a cold compress. If the sting is infected, get medical help because antibiotics may be needed. Call 911 if after a sting there is tightness of the throat, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, cramping or abdominal pain, or fainting.

Having an epi pen is also advisable for those with known allergies.

El Dorado County vector control is at (530) 573.3197.



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Comments (8)
  1. Steve Kubby says - Posted: August 29, 2013

    Please don’t use pesticides to kill yellowjackets. Just locate the nest and remove it at night, while it is dark, because all those nasty yellowjackets will be asleep and harmless. Remove the nest and place it in a garbage bag, which is then placed in a second sealed garbage bag. that will suffocate them.

  2. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: August 29, 2013

    If you’re having problems with yellowjackets and don’t want to go the chemical route you can buy a trap at any hardware store or make your own. To go the home made route here’s how to do it. Get an empty plastic soda bottle and rinse it out. Cut 2 or 3 holes the size of a quarter or a little bigger about half way down around the side of the bottle. Remove cap and punch a small hole in just big enough to fit a piece of string through. Knot string at one end so it won’t slip through cap, string should hang about halfway down bottle. Bait the end of string with a piece of raw bacon or a piece of beef fat,( yellowjackets will eat about anything! ). Pour in about an inch or two of liquid dish soap into bottom of bottle, you can dilute soap with water if you want. Yellowjackets, attracted to the bait fly through holes, gorge themselves and become so heavy they have difficulty flying, they fall into soap at the bottom where they die. Empty out and repeat. Not the most efficent method but if your opposed to poison around your house and yard it will work. If this all sounds like to much work just buy a trap or call Vector Control. OLS

  3. dan Wilvers says - Posted: August 29, 2013

    you’re braver then me Steve.

  4. Diana Hamilton says - Posted: August 29, 2013

    Thanks, Old Long Skiis ~ excellent way to deal with yellowjackets!

  5. John S says - Posted: August 29, 2013

    Another trap method… get a 5 gallon bucket and fill bottom with water. Add a bit of soap or oil to the water. Punch a nail through a small board and place in the bucket. Board under water with nail sticking up. Place a hot dog on the nail. Bees gorge on hot dog and can’t fly out of the bucket. Fall and drowned

  6. Dogula says - Posted: August 29, 2013

    We use the hardware store traps. They work great. The only issue with them (or the hotdog idea) is that the bears like them too. We’ve lost a couple of traps to the bears, and we use the liquid attractant rather than real food. I think the bears like the smell of the dead wasps.
    And when it’s time to clean out and replace the bait, remember to do it EARLY morning or LATE evening when the nasty little critters are snoozing.

  7. nature bats last says - Posted: August 29, 2013

    Vector controll is a great service and the stuff they use to get the yellow jackets isnt poisonous to other critters from what ive been told. Its a derivitave of cersanthyum flowers. Regardless of the toxic nature (or not)of the dust, Ive had vector controll out several times and the problem gets solved. I also put out the store traps early in the season when I see the first few yellow jackets and since ive done that i havnt had any nests in my yard or on my house in years

  8. J-Mac says - Posted: August 30, 2013

    Would have been nice if The News could get the story right. Yellowjackets are not bees, they are wasps. Their behavior is quite different. I’ve never seen bees go after people or their food. They are content with your flowers, and not aggressive if you leave them alone.