How to Get Rid of Yellowjackets in Your Yard: A Complete Guide [2024]

Last Modified on January 28, 2024 by Zachary Smith

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Yellowjackets are unwelcome visitors in any yard.

These flying insects pack a painful sting, and their interest in your picnic table or frosty summer beverage is enough to make anyone squirm.

Fortunately, you don’t have to live with troublesome yellowjackets forever.

At Smith’s Pest Management, have helped San Francisco Bay Area customers eliminate yellowjackets in their homes and around their businesses for over 15 years.

This blog will discuss how to get rid of yellowjackets and reclaim your outdoor space.

Safety Considerations

If there are yellowjackets in your yard, you want to get rid of them quickly. Not so fast, however!

Before you get started, first gear up for safety.

Yellowjacket stings are painful, but they can also be dangerous.

While the main symptoms of yellowjacket stings are redness, pain, and swelling at the sting site, wasp stings can cause anaphylactic shock. This is a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening for some.

With that in mind, take precautions to keep yourself safe as you treat the nest– even if you know you’re not allergic to wasps.

We recommend wearing:

  • Long sleeves
  • Gloves
  • Pants (we also recommend tucking your pant legs into your socks)
  • Enclosed shoes

How to Get Rid of Yellowjackets: A Step-by-Step Guide

get rid of yellowjackets

Now that you’ve chosen your treatment method and outfitted yourself in protective gear, it’s time to focus on getting rid of the yellowjackets in your yard.

Here’s our step-by-step guide:

1. Locate the nest

To treat the yellowjackets effectively, you’ve got to locate the nest. Yellowjackets are most active during the daytime hours, so the afternoon is the best time to track and monitor their activity.

Remember that wasps will build nests in the ground or elevated areas, like your home’s eaves and roof pitches.

2. Find entry and exit points

No matter where the nest is, you’ll be able to identify its entry point by tracking wasp activity and observing where they’re congregating.

Some established nests have multiple entry and exit points. Make a note of these for later treatment.

3. Apply the treatment

Once you’ve located the nest and identified all active entry and exit points, it’s time to apply your treatment of choice.

Natural Remedies

1. Cover the exit and entrance of the nest with bowls

One of the easiest ways to kill yellowjackets is to identify all entry and exit holes and cover them with glass bowls. This traps the wasps inside the nest and causes them to starve to death.

Pros: Affordable, easy, completely non-toxic.

Cons: This method only works if you can achieve a tight seal with the edges of the bowls and if the bowls won’t be disturbed by kids or pets playing in the yard. 

2. Dry ice

To kill wasps on contact, purchase some dry ice and dump it into a ground nest. Quickly cover the entry and exit holes with dirt.

Pros: Fast, effective, non-toxic. 

Cons: Requires close contact with the nest and may increase the risk of being stung. 

3. Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is a scent that yellowjackets hate. While the oil won’t kill the wasps, it can act as a natural wasp repellent.

Add a few drops of pure peppermint oil and a few tablespoons of dish soap to a spray bottle filled with warm water.

Spray the mixture around the entrance and exit points of active wasp nests. Reapply every few days for several weeks.

Pros: Affordable, non-toxic, safe for households with kids and pets.

Cons: This method will not kill wasps, and the spray must be reapplied regularly. 

4. Use protein bait

Use a protein bait to construct a homemade wasp trap.

Fill a five-gallon bucket with soapy water and hang a protein bait, like a small amount of fish, liver, or canned chicken, a few inches above the water.

The yellowjackets will come to feed on the protein, grab a bit that’s too heavy to fly with, slip into the water, and die.

Pros: Easy to construct, non-toxic.

Cons: This method will take several weeks to kill wasps and will only work if you can ensure kids, pets, and other animals won’t disturb the trap. The trap will also need to be refreshed and reset weekly. 

5. Destroy the nest

If you’re feeling brave, you can skip treatment and go straight to destroying the yellowjacket nest.

To do this safely, wait until after dark to approach the nest. Wear protective clothing like long pants, heavy gloves, a long-sleeve shirt, and closed-toed shoes.

To destroy a ground nest, pour a 50/50 mixture of peppermint castile soap and water into the nest’s opening, following it immediately with boiling water. After a few days of no wasp activity, dig the ground nest up and dispose of it.

To destroy an aerial nest, follow the same timing and clothing precautions and then take these steps:

  • Slip a drawstring bag around the nest completely.
  • Close it quickly.
  • Twist the nest from its anchor point and pull it away from the tree, house, or other structure.
  • Submerge the bag and nest in water, weighing it down with a rock or other heavy object.

Pros: Effective and quick. 

Cons: This method can be dangerous and dramatically increases the risk of getting stung. Additionally, it will not kill wasps that are not present in the nest during destruction. 

6. Hang an imitation nest

Yellowjackets are very territorial, and they won’t build a nest in an area they believe is already inhabited by enemy wasps.

Because of that, hanging an imitation wasp nest can be an excellent way to send yellowjackets packing.

Imitation nests are a chemical-free pest control method that you don’t have to refill, dispose of, or reset.

Just hang a few around your yard to keep your outdoor space wasp-free.

Pros: Chemical-free, safe for use around kids and pets, easy to install. 

Cons: Does not kill wasps that are already present in the yard. 

7. Use a Wet-Dry Vacuum

If you have a wet-dry vacuum (also known as a shop vac), you can use it to get rid of yellowjackets. Simply fill the vacuum tank with soapy water and use the nozzle to suck up yellow jackets. The yellowjackets will enter the tank, hit the soapy water, and drown.

If you choose to use this method, dress in a long-sleeved shirt, closed-toe shoes, and long pants. It’s also wise to wait until the evening hours when yellowjackets are the least active.

Pros: Non-toxic, easy, effective

Cons: Is not appropriate for dealing with established nests of yellowjackets – just individual wasps or wasps in the early stages of building a nest; this method makes being stung more likely. 

Chemical Methods

If you’re looking for a quick, effective way to get rid of yellowjackets, conventional treatment options are usually best.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each:

8. Dusting

Dusting relies on the use of insecticidal dust to kill yellowjackets. The dust is applied directly to the nest and nest openings and works to kill yellowjackets and their larvae for weeks after application.

9. Drenching

Drenching involves using a liquid insecticide to drench the nest and its openings. This method kills wasps on contact and continues to work for weeks after application.

10. Baiting

Traditional baits use chemical bait to attract wasps. When the wasps consume the bait or take it back to their nests for the queen to consume, they die.

11. Trapping

Conventional traps use a sweet-smelling or protein bait source to draw wasps up into the trap. The wasps can’t exit the trap, and they die inside it. These traps can be purchased at most home and garden stores and are easy to set and use.

Here are a few tips to make treatment application as effective as possible: 

  • Only use dust for nests that seem inactive. Use a hand-duster and apply several “puffs” of dust to the interior of the nest entrance and exit points and the area surrounding them.
  • If you’re using foams or sprays, apply them generously. Using a long-range sprayer, stand back from the nest and aim the spray directly into the interior of the entrance and exit holes. Spray the solution into the hole for at least one minute. Move in a circular motion to cover as much of the interior nest wall as possible.
  • Spray individual wasps directly. If any wasps emerge from the nest during the treatment, spray them generously with your foam or wasp killer spray.

4. Check the nest for activity

Once you’ve treated the nest, wait for 24 hours, and then recheck the nest for yellowjacket activity.

If you see yellowjacket activity, treat the nest again during the evening or predawn hours.

Once you’re sure that all wasps in the nest are dead, you can remove the nest, place it in a garbage bag, and put it in a tightly-sealed trash can.

How Exterminators Deal with Yellowjackets

wasp exterminator

1. Inspection

First, we’ll inspect your property to identify nests and pinpoint their entry and exit holes. We’ll also take note of any additional pest problems that could be making your yellowjacket infestation worse.

2. Treatment

Depending on the location and size of the yellowjacket nests on your property, we’ll deliver a targeted treatment to eliminate the yellowjackets inside their nest.

To ensure your family’s safety, we use pesticides sparingly and always apply pest control products per the product labels.

3. Follow-up Treatment

Next, we’ll apply an additional round of treated bait to eliminate any yellowjackets that weren’t in the nest during our initial treatment.

This process wipes out individual yellowjackets and helps prevent re-infestation.

Yellowjacket Prevention Tips

Prevention is the most effective treatment method when it comes to yellowjackets.

With that in mind, follow these tips to keep yellowjackets out of your yard in the first place:

  • Limit food sources. Yellowjackets need protein sources to survive. Limit their available food sources by covering outdoor garbage bins and emptying them frequently. Clean up any outdoor spills promptly and keep all pet food inside.
  • Avoid scents. Avoid using scented perfumes and lotions when you plan to be outside. Steer clear of heavily scented soaps and cleaning products for outdoor use.
  • Clean up after outdoor meals. Clean up promptly and thoroughly if you’ve enjoyed an outdoor barbeque or picnic. Leaving scraps of food behind will encourage yellowjackets to gather.
  • Resolve other pest infestations. Yellowjackets will be drawn to any yard that offers abundant food sources. If you have lots of flies, caterpillars, spiders, or other insects on your property, you’ll also have wasps. Because of this, it’s essential to treat and prevent underlying pest infestations to get rid of wasps.
  • Use preventative tactics. Hang false nests, get rid of rotting wood and piles of rubbish in the yard, and practice other preventive tactics to repel wasps. The less appealing your yard is for these pests, the less likely wasps are to build a nest.


1. How do I know if I'm dealing with a yellowjacket or bee?

yellowjacket identification

Yellowjackets are a type of wasp. Adult yellowjackets have a hairless, segmented body with a thin waist and elongated wings that fold laterally against their bodies.

Yellowjackets are about ⅜”-⅝” when fully grown. They have long antennae, six legs, and black and yellow bodies, making them difficult to distinguish from honeybees and other types of hornets and wasps.

They are avid hunters that travel up to 1,000 feet from their nests to look for food. Yellowjackets are also highly aggressive and will defend their nests ruthlessly.

Some will even sting unprovoked!

2. Why are there so many yellowjackets in my yard?

Yellowjackets rely on protein to survive and feed their young, and they’ll build nests anywhere they can find it.

If you have flies, caterpillars, spiders, or other insects on your property, yellowjackets will arrive to feast on those favored food sources.

Because of this, one of the best ways to get rid of yellowjackets is to reduce or remove their food sources.

3. What is the best yellowjacket control method?

Common yellowjacket control methods include baits, sprays, dust, foams, and traps – all of which kill the pests effectively.

Sprays and foams are the best choices if you’ve found a yellowjacket nest hanging from a low tree branch or another easy-to-reach area.

If the nest is in a tight space, though, like a gap in your siding, you might want to use traps or baits to draw the yellowjackets out and reduce your risk of getting stung.

Are Yellowjackets Taking Over Your San Francisco Bay Area Yard? We’re Here to Help!

Has your outdoor space become a yellowjacket paradise? You don’t have to live that way forever!

At Smith’s Pest Management, our yellowjacket control experts will help you kill yellowjackets in the ground or aerial nests. Why wait? Get rid of those nasty, flying insects for good.

Contact us today to get a free quote and let us get rid of those pesky yellowjackets! 


Author Bio: Zach Smith

Landscape Pro Turned Gopher Pro: Owner, Zach Smith, graduate of Cal Poly’s Horticulture program worked nine years as a landscape professional- dealing with gophers, moles, and ground squirrels and was quickly recruited by other local gardeners. Fast forward to the past 15+ years, where Zach and his team trap and remove burrowing pests from residential, municipal and commercial properties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, from Marin to Monterey.