Yellow Jackets


Yellow jackets will become the most active during the late summer and fall. I’ve received a few calls
from people saying that they have encountered some around their homes. I have a few around my own
house, so I know they’re out there! Yellow Jackets can look similar to wasps. Wasps are usually
unaggressive unless threatened. Yellow jackets have a thicker waist, shorter legs, and wings that press
more flatly against the body when resting than wasps.

Wasps’ nests are usually under eaves or beneath porch railings and have hexagonal cells. Yellow jacket
nests are usually built in old rodent holes or cavities that have been left behind by a small critter. They
can build nests in wall spaces, although this is less common. Yellow jacket nests will die out over the
winter and start anew with a new reproducing female each year. This means that yellow jacket nests will
be the easiest to eradicate in the spring while the nests are still small. The flipside is that the nests will
be harder to find in the spring because they only have a few individuals in them at that time. Nests can
grow up to 5000 yellow jackets, and will grow larger in years with a long dry spring.

Solitary yellow jackets can often be seen foraging for food for the colony. Yellow jackets feed on a
variety of insects pests. They will also eat meat and like drinking coke. They will also attack bee hives.
Yellow jackets are able to discern at a pheromone level which hives are weak. They’ll choose those hives
to attack, making them more of opportunistic pests to bees than actual predators. If they are able to get
inside past the guards, yellow jackets can take out the entire hive killing bees, eating larvae, eggs,
pupae, and honey.

Control of yellow jacket nests this time of year can be very difficult because the nests have reached a
large size. Pyrethroid insecticides that you can buy at the store will be effective at killing yellow jackets,
but only when you make contact with them when you are actively spraying. If you can block the hole
that they use as an entrance you may be able to eradicate them this way too. Yellow jackets aren’t
diggers, they use holes other critters have made, so they can be trapped inside if there is only one
entrance. There are yellow jacket traps that can be effective at controlling them too. Another method of
control is to use hot water mixed with dishwashing soap and pouring it down the hole. Whenever you
are working with yellow jackets the safest time will be at night. They will be more inactive at nighttime,
so your chances of being stung decrease. It is still a good idea to wear protective clothing. If you have a
serious yellow jacket problem it is best to call a professional to control them.

If you have any questions about yellow jacket identification or control please call your local Extension
Office or email me at

Fall Shrub Care


Fall Shrub Care

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent


It’s that time of year when we must start looking ahead and planning for the upcoming winter.  The shrubs in our landscape will benefit greatly from a little bit of tender loving care this fall.  Shrubs going into the winter that are hungry (lacking fertilizer) have a much greater chance of winter injury and poor growth the following spring if we don’t give them some attention now.

Azaleas which are rapidly turning yellow or the older leaves are yellowing and falling off indicate a lack of nitrogen going into winter.  The leaves on the red flowered selections often turn reddish-brown before the leaves fall off. Late summer and early fall is the ideal time to prevent this yellowing from occurring.  If you’re seeing these symptoms now, it’s not too late to take corrective measures.  Taking a soil sample and following the recommendations is best, but if you feel you don’t have time to take a soil test, apply a balanced slow release fertilizer that contains a small amount of nitrogen.

A little light pruning in the fall can also do miracles in shaping up shrubs for the winter season.  Evergreen hollies and magnolias can be saved until you want to cut foliage for winter decorations.  Light pruning in the fall is used to remove long branches and any dead, damaged or diseased branches.  Remove those branches that interfere with the driveway, mowing the lawn or the walkway.  The pruning cuts should be made back into the interior of the plant at a point where the branch is attached to a larger stem. Sheering evergreens in fall is not recommended since they will produce another flush of growth that is too tender to survive the winter. Too much pruning in the fall makes plants much more susceptible to winter damage and death.  Also, pruning in the fall will remove flowers from next year’s spring blooming shrubs so fall pruning should be done lightly and only to shape the plants and remove dead and diseased limbs.

If you have time to take a soil sample, its $9 a bag and one sample covers about 15 acres. We have the bags and testing instructions in the office but generally, just dig down about 3 or 4 inches in 6 different areas, mix it altogether in a small bucket, pour it in a pint size plastic baggie and bring it by the office. We can transfer it to the soil sample bag and send it to the soil, plant and water lab for testing at the University of Georgia. We collect soil samples all week and send them to Athens on Friday mornings. It takes about a week to get the results and recommendations.

For more information about fall pruning and soil testing, contact me at the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.


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