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Yellow jacket nest located IN garden?!

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
So the other day I was weeding my overgrown, weedy strawberry bed. I have one of those round, metal, stepped-up strawberry beds and planted thyme next to it on one side (on a bit of a slope).

I was stung by yellow-jackets. Initially I thought they had been hiding in the thyme or strawberry bed because it was a cool day. However, yesterday, I checked, and watched hive-like activity there -- they've obviously got an underground nest they've built there. It must be relatively new, because we hadn't had any wasps all summer long. Anyway, they are flying back and forth with a purpose right there, in and out of the thyme on the slope (and it looks like freshly worked dirt under the thyme there).

Has anyone dealt with a wasp nest like this - not just close to the garden, but IN it? I would prefer not to use any toxic chemicals to get rid of them, but I can't just surrender my strawberry bed to them either (nor my thyme!). Tell me there's something I can do which doesn't involve poisoning them! Ugh.

OK, I found this Extension publication about yellow jackets and their nests. It's not 'organic,' but it does have some suggestions. Dh has had wasp traps up all summer but he's not replenishing the liquid very often (last summer he did but there have been so few wasps this summer) -- so it appears that our first approach should be to get the wasp traps filled and check them every couple days, and trap as many as we can that way as apparently the nest's size is really going to expand in the next few weeks.

And -- my open compost heap is not helping matters. So I guess it's time to bite the bullet and get myself an enclosed compost tumbler. Ugh. Didn't want to spend that money!!

http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2075.html
post #2 of 7
Yellowjacket nests can get quite enormous if left alone, and they're extremely dangerous animals, especially around pets and children. They're aggressive and willing and capable of stinging multiple times, and they don't even have to be provoked. They're particularly irritated by high-pitched noises, like...children's voices.

If it were my garden I'd try to find a "green" exterminator and have it professionally destroyed. But even if the exterminator had to use toxic sprays, I'd have it removed by a pro and just plan to do some container gardening in that area for a few years until the soil recovered. Around here (N. Idaho), I'm told that wasp spray sells out completely in area stores by the end of August because the yellowjackets get so bad. We put up paper decoy wasp nests on the corners of the wraparound porch in hopes of deterring them, but I won't hesitate to call in the guys with the poison spray if that doesn't work. They are nasty little beasts.

My understanding is you have to take care of them ASAP, because they multiply fast and once a nest is big enough, it can be very hard to safely destroy. Just my $0.02.
post #3 of 7
Ground wasps are a perennial problem here (Idaho), and you probably have the similar dry soil that attracts them. I've never had them in my garden, but I'm not surprised that they're attracted to your sweet strawberries. You've done some good research so far, but you might also contact your county extension center for information on getting rid of them and repelling them. Good luck!

ETA: We just use the "organic" wasp traps with the sugar water to deal with our problem, although you may need something more surefire to keep them out of your strawberry patch.
post #4 of 7
I don't know... I'm all for organic gardens and yard care, but yellow jackets are horrible. I stepped in a nest as a 12 year old and was stung over 100 times, they chased me all the way home and my mom still had to beat them off of me with a towel. If I was allergic I wouldn't be typing this right now. I personally, would wait until night, go out there with a flashlight, and nuke the nest with a wasp drench. Most of the pesticides labeled for home use have a very high LD 50 and often don't have a long residual half-life. I consider it the lesser of 2 evils in this case.
post #5 of 7
I second plantnerd. We've gone out at night, once it's cool and they're all sleeping, to pour a bit of gasoline down their hole and torch that -- but not everyone is as brave Not to mention, the next day there was still some activity. We just buy the spray in foamy stuff now. This summer has been quite cool and is the first we haven't had any yellow jackets. When we first moved here we had 4 or 5 ground nests around we had to destroy.
post #6 of 7
Reading this thread has the hair on my arms standing up straight. I would kill them by any means possible. You can always put some activated charcoal in the soil later to help neutralize toxic things, right?
post #7 of 7
I'm in Idaho too and have had to deal with quite a few nests every year, though never one in the ground. Actually, I don't deal with them since I am severely allergic but DP does and we have had great successes with Victor Poison-Free . Try local hardware stores or it is always available online. It might not be as fast acting as some of the more toxic ones but it's night when you spray so it doesn't really matter. Usually takes 30 second to a minute to kill and since your nest is underground you might need repeat sprayings.

I've even sprayed this in my house when I am home alone and wasps are dive-bombing me in the house. It does leave a bit of a stain since it is made of oil but smells fantastic!

wasp spray

good luck! yellowjackets and wasps are the WORST!
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