Benefits of yellowjackets
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  1. #1
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    May 2015
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    Default Benefits of yellowjackets

    Once again, I don't claim know much about bees.

    I really want to go all in on yellowjacket traps next spring, but I think I don't know the whole story.

    Prior to getting bees, I've had a live-and-let-live attitude towards yellowjackets. Some varieties are great predators, and they can be beneficial at keeping nuisance insect populations under control. However these are the yellowjackets I need to protect my hives from, and I am more than willing to be proactive if it helps.

    I know that there are a lot of different types of hornets, and I want to kill all of the yellowjackets that are picking my bees off the landing boards. What if the yellowjackets are targeting bees with mites because they are easier to catch? That seems beneficial to me

    The traps that worked great for me this year are called Rescue and they rely on a scent of rotted meat to bring the yellowjackets in. They are very effective, but I am concerned that I am killing the buzzards of the yellowjacket family when it is the Yellowjacket "eagles" which are picking off my bees.

    I noticed that yellowjackets overran a couple poorly executed attempts at making breeding nucs. I should have been watching more closely, but in 2 days, all the bees (about 3 cups) were gone and the yellowjackets had cleared all the eggs, larvae and pupae from the comb. This was healthy comb from a fresh cutout.

    So I am also wondering how big a role yellowjackets might play in controlling wax moths in unoccupied comb? Empty comb gets chewed up by the moths pretty quickly. So it seems that around here the yellowjackets don't help much.

    I don't generally overthink things, in fact there are a lot of times more thinking would have improved the outcome of my earlier endeavors. I am sure there are entomological experts on here that would have informed input. So should I just kill all I can? Let them be? Strategies for targeting the worst actors?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    King County, Washington
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    The presence of yellow jackets entering hives unmolested is an excellent indicator that something is not right with that hive and in it's current condition will not last the winter. I'm not sure what triggers yellow jackets to target a hive under stress, but in my experience some cue given off. It could be queenlessness...mites...disease...or whatever.

    A healthy hive that has a laying queen will not be harassed much from theses wasps. They also pick up the sick and dead in front of hives. They'll sometimes capture a returning forager, but they are not a threat to a healthy hive...even if said hive is not all that populous. We had an awful year in the Northwest. I have three frame medium nucs and the wasps left them alone. So, when I see yellow jackets singling out hives...I go in and find out what's wrong.

    With that in mind..it's almost impossible to set up queenless mating nucs in August. I would imagine they would prey on moths, but there are better ways of protecting comb. They are also predacious as heck on insects...particularly in the late summer when they are raising their reproductive. You'll see them hovering over grass picking off crane flys and such. I've yet to see Bald Faced Hornets attack hives..I do see them waiting on the sides pouncing on foragers as the come and go.

    Don't fear Yellow jackets...they are your friend...unless you stumble upon their nest.

  4. #3
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    May 2014
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    Do you think your traps are attracting a lot more yellow-jackets than they are catching. Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've never experienced as many yellow-jackets as you seem to have.

  5. #4
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    Mar 2014
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    West Chester, PA
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    I have only had significant numbers of yellow jackets and bald faced hornets when I have top feeders on. They seem to be drawn to the seam between the bottom of the feeder and top of the brood box. There must be a little bit of syrup draft leaking out that smells to them like the outside of a bakery to us. It is somewhat comical to see the whole seam lined with yellow jackets and hornets, but nothing at the hive entrance. I see that and hope they don't figure it out someday though I suspect they know - they just aren't strong enough.

    Otherwise, yellow jackets seem to scavenge underneath my hives. I've seen a few try to enter and get "beaten up". I've also seen a few enter and agree that is an indicator of a problem. I haven't seen hornets trying to enter through the entrance, but they did try a few times to fly in through an open top when I am inspecting. That always triggers a ruckus and usually a smack from my hive tool.

    Jim.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    Quote Originally Posted by jfmcree View Post
    I have only had significant numbers of yellow jackets and bald faced hornets when I have top feeders on. They seem to be drawn to the seam between the bottom of the feeder and top of the brood box. There must be a little bit of syrup draft leaking out that smells to them like the outside of a bakery to us. It is somewhat comical to see the whole seam lined with yellow jackets and hornets, but nothing at the hive entrance. I see that and hope they don't figure it out someday though I suspect they know - they just aren't strong enough.

    Otherwise, yellow jackets seem to scavenge underneath my hives. I've seen a few try to enter and get "beaten up". I've also seen a few enter and agree that is an indicator of a problem. I haven't seen hornets trying to enter through the entrance, but they did try a few times to fly in through an open top when I am inspecting. That always triggers a ruckus and usually a smack from my hive tool.

    Jim.
    Do the pheremones (if any) from a squished yellow jacket set the bees off/

  7. #6
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    Dec 2014
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    I'm pretty sure the yellow jackets where I am are generalist "opportunivores," so there wouldn't be any difference in the species attracted to rotting meat vs fruit or whatever. I still have a live-and-let-live attitude toward them, but then I haven't seen any enter my hives, which have been strong all summer. If I did my first instinct would be entrance reducers or robber screens to make it easier for the bees to defend. If that didn't work I might try traps. If there were a large hornet nest very close to the hives I would be more inclined to destroy it.

    You say they are picking bees off the landing board. This might be a situation where a smaller landing board, or no landing board, would be better for the bees. Especially in nucs or weak colonies where there aren't many "traffic jams" at the entrance.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    This year I did a no no feeding cappings and honey on top of my inner cover. I had forgotten the notch that was in the inner cover and when I pull the outer cover off there were at least 50 yellow jackets feeding on the honey scraps right along side all the honey bees. Neither one bothering the other. I have also seen this with open feeding. It appears as long as the colony is not under attack they can be civil with each other. We have a lot of YJ because of the tin storage buildings but they are not a threat to my honeybees.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    This year I did a no no feeding cappings and honey on top of my inner cover. I had forgotten the notch that was in the inner cover and when I pull the outer cover off there were at least 50 yellow jackets feeding on the honey scraps right along side all the honey bees. Neither one bothering the other. I have also seen this with open feeding. It appears as long as the colony is not under attack they can be civil with each other. We have a lot of YJ because of the tin storage buildings but they are not a threat to my honeybees.
    I think yellow-jackets and other wasps are more carnivorous in the spring when they are looking to feed brood or lay eggs in meat. In the fall they are more interested in carbs.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    Quote Originally Posted by dsegrest View Post
    I think yellow-jackets and other wasps are more carnivorous in the spring when they are looking to feed brood or lay eggs in meat. In the fall they are more interested in carbs.
    Certainly it's true the YJs feed their larvae meat. It is also true that they take meat even this late in the season.

    For several weeks now I have been watching YJs picking up the dead and dying bees in front of my hives. They take the head and thorax, but leave the abdomen. I speculate that they're not interested in the venom sac or intestine. I have seen them try the hive entrances, only to make a swift getaway seconds later, and sometimes, get carried out dead, by bees, a few moments later. I have even seen a few YJs fly into the hive while it's open for inspection and land on brood cells, only to be surrounded by a dozen bees, and evicted or killed. Sure, they take all the meat they can get this time of year. And who has not seen YJs picking off the carcasses of dead insects on the grill of your car during the summer?

    I watch them closely around my hives. If the bees are handling that pressure, I leave the YJs alone. If they are not being repelled quickly, I know it's time to put up YJ traps. about 10 or 20 feet away from my hives.

    Interesting observation a couple weeks ago. I killed YJs right in front of the hive while they were picking at bees. Other YJs soon came in and took the YJ meat, all except the abdomen. Cannibals, I suppose.

    First hard frost is coming this week, so YJs will be gone until spring.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    The lengths's I'll go to crush a queen early spring is ridiculous.
    I'll gladly kill them with my bare hands and risk a sting. They have no use as far as I can see in the environment and are horrible here in fall. No real issues with honey bees, but will sting people with no provocation. I kill every one I can catch or trap.



    You should have felt the jaws of this one trying to bite me through the latex. Really powerful.
    Honeybee stings don't effect me, but yellow jacket stings are a whole different type of venom.

    Here's a sting I got last summer when I grabbed a flake of hay to feed my horse.
    Wait for it....Wait for it...









    Got my ring off just in time.

    Big Baldfaced hornets I leave alone though. They are great fly catchers and only kill minimal honey bees. It's an 'off with your head' unfortunate experience for them though. But the hornets are very beneficial in the environment and not overly aggressive towards humans unless provoked near their hive.
    Lauri Miller.
    Carniolan Hybrids. Glenn, Latshaw & Wild lines.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    Quote Originally Posted by dsegrest View Post
    Do you think your traps are attracting a lot more yellow-jackets than they are catching. Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've never experienced as many yellow-jackets as you seem to have.
    No. You also live in the PNW. It's a real bad year for wasps in general. Warm winter..didn't kill off many foundresses. An early spring got them going early. Unless we get a cold winter...next year in the PNW is going to be worse than this year. Keep the hives healthy with a laying queen and you' bees won't have a lick of trouble with yellow jackets.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    I've noticed a lot of yellow jackets around my hives this year, probably in part from feeding above the inner cover. It looked to me that they can stand slightly cooler temps than the honeybees, anyone know if that's a fact?

    As far as I know, yellowjackets are a type of vespid wasp from Japan. They are not a native insect and I have no qualms about destroying everyone of them that I can.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    Quote Originally Posted by hoosierhiver View Post
    As far as I know, yellowjackets are a type of vespid wasp from Japan. They are not a native insect and I have no qualms about destroying everyone of them that I can.
    There are native and non-native yellowjackets. Most of the non-natives in N. America came originally from Europe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_jacket

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    Quote Originally Posted by Hops Brewster View Post
    First hard frost is coming this week, so YJs will be gone until spring.
    I was just out at the hives pulling the shim off because I had dumped honey and cappings on the inner cover. We have had two heavy frosts so far and they are still around so I am not sure what it takes for the queen to hibernate and kill off the rest.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    There is only one good use for yellow jackets and that is, they pollinate black-eyed peas. If you are not growing any black-eyed peas, then exterminate them all.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    Quote Originally Posted by dsegrest View Post
    I think yellow-jackets and other wasps are more carnivorous in the spring when they are looking to feed brood or lay eggs in meat. In the fall they are more interested in carbs.
    The life cycle of Yellowjackets dictates that they are not a problem in the spring. Their overwintering strategy is that they cast new queens in the fall. The new queens burrow underground to overwinter. The parent colony dies out. The overwintered queen begins laying and caring for brood in the spring. So colony populations are low until later in the year.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    Quote Originally Posted by hoosierhiver View Post
    I've noticed a lot of yellow jackets around my hives this year, probably in part from feeding above the inner cover. It looked to me that they can stand slightly cooler temps than the honeybees, anyone know if that's a fact?
    I see them flying when the temperatures are cooler than what the bees here fly at, around 40F. I've watched them go into hives when it's cooler, assuming they're after honey or brood. Once it warms up enough for the guards to get stationed at the entrances, the YJs can't get into the hives.
    "Sometimes the best action, with bees, is no action at all."

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    I see them early in the AM, too, before the guard bees are active, slipping furtively into my tiny reduced-entrances.

    The other thing I've noticed about YJ, at least here in NY, is that they are completely unfazed by robber screens. The don't seem to have any problem figuring out to get in behind them, unlike honeybees from different colonies.

    However when they are trying depart from a hive from behind the robber screen they have a much harder time and the bees make sport of chasing them down into the corners and putting them to death.

    Last year was YJ Hell, but this year though I have seen some, there are far fewer - the same with bald-faced hornets. I was thinking perhaps that last winter was especially hard on them here. If we have a mild winter this time, perhaps we'll be back in trouble next Fall.

    I just pick them up and shoo them away.

    Enj.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    "The benefits of Yellow Jackets?" I've yet to find one.

    I generally go by the "live, and let live" approach. I make an exception for YJ's.

    Lauri & JBH hit a good point - kill every queen you find in the spring, and you will eliminate 100's of nasty offspring in fall. (Put your traps out in the spring - they may not catch many, but more will be queens)

    The best thing about the first snow/cold snap is that most of them die out.
    After 40 years of beekeeping, I've come to realize that the bees can fix most of my mistakes.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Benefits of yellowjackets

    Quote Originally Posted by GaryG74 View Post
    I see them flying when the temperatures are cooler than what the bees here fly at, around 40F. I've watched them go into hives when it's cooler, assuming they're after honey or brood. Once it warms up enough for the guards to get stationed at the entrances, the YJs can't get into the hives.
    I see the same. About 40 to 47 degrees the bees are all balled up but the yellow jackets are on the prowl! That is when they are doing the damage. Abive 47 or so the bees fight them off. It has been right in that bad zone here in the mornings for awhile and ive seen lots going into hives even though I only have very small entrances. I need to set meat traps out it sounds like. I do have apple juice traps out and I visit them with the fly swatter whenever I get a chance.

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