General information

Frequently Asked Questions about Yellow Jackets

What’s the difference between yellow jackets and bees?

Yellow jackets feed on other insects as well as nectar, while bees feed only on nectar. Bees can only sting once while yellowjackets can sting multiple times. Yellowjackets have black and yellow stripes and shiny bodies while bees are fuzzy and brownish. Bees typically build hives in hollow trees high above the ground. Their hives contain wax combs. Yellowjackets build round paper nests either under the ground or hanging from tree branches. Bees produce honey and feed on nectar and pollen from flowers. They are important in pollination of fruit trees and many other crops.

What does a yellow jacket nest look like?

Yellow jackets are stinging insects that build large communal hives. Three kinds of yellowjackets occur in San Mateo County: the Western Yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica), Common Yellowjacket (Vespula vulgaris) and the Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria). The first two build hives under the ground and feed on live insects, dead animals, and nectar. These are the insects that pester you during your summer and fall BBQs. Aerial yellowjackets build large paper nests in trees or other high places (such as the eaves of your house). These nests are round or oval shaped and about the size of a basketball. Aerial yellowjackets feed exclusively on live insects. 

What should I do if I find a yellow jacket nest?

Don’t disturb the nest, and keep pets and children away. Yellow jackets will aggressively defend their nest with painful stings. If the nest is in the ground, mark the location and contact the District for help. For nests inside structures, contact a licensed pest control operator.

Can you remove yellow jackets on my property?

The District will control the nests of ground nesting yellow jackets, if the property owner knows the location of the nest. To find the nest, look for a hole in the ground, about the size of a quarter, with a steady stream of yellow jackets flying in and out.

The District is not licensed to conduct pest control inside of structures. For nests inside of structures, please look in the yellow pages under “pest control” for a pest control expert with a structural license.

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