Updated  July, 2013

As many as 100 people will die this year from yellowjacket stings.  Even if you have been stung in the past and suffered no ill effects, it is not a guarantee that you will not suffer a bad reaction in the future.

I have written about  my yellowjacket encounters in the past.  My original post can be read here.

My experienced began on a beautiful summer evening in ’08 when I was suddenly attacked by yellowjackets.  There was no warning or indication of what was about to happen.  Although I had been stung in the past, I had never experienced a severe reaction. This time was different.

What happened in ’09 was even more severe than the year before.  My body’s reaction to the stings was swift and immediate. I barely made it into the house;  911 had to called.  I cannot forget the feeling of suddenly losing control of my body  or the  felling of  helpless of something beyond my control.  I will always have to keep an Epi Pen nearby during the months when yellowjackets reappear.

Summer is a time for picnics in the back yard, at the beach, etc. and these critters are always around…usually near the food and drinks. Yellowjackets take no prisons, unlike bees, they can sting repeatedly. Don’t let your family and friends fall victim.

Be pro-active and consider these recommendations:

  • Start looking for nestsnow, before they establish themselves. Once established, they are very difficult to get rid of.  I had a professional treat the area four times with different kinds of insecticide eradicators, including a “natural” one that had little effect.  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to check your lawn and yard every so often throughout the spring & summer months.
  • What am I looking for?  The signs of any swarming activity with insects flying in and out or seeming to disappear into the ground.  This is from Ohio State University:

Life Cycle and Habits

Yellowjackets are social wasps living in colonies containing workers, queens and males. Colonies are annual with only inseminated queens overwintering. Fertilized queens occur in protected places as hollow logs, in stumps, under bark, in leaf litter, in soil cavities and human-made structures. Queens emerge during the warm days of late April or early May, select a nest site and build a small paper nest in which eggs are laid. After eggs hatch from the 30 to 50 brood cells, the queen feeds the young larvae for about 18 to 20 days. Larvae pupate, emerging later as small, infertile females called workers. By mid-June, the first adult workers emerge and assume the tasks of nest expansion, foraging for food, care of the queen and larvae, and colony defense. From this time until her death in the autumn, the queen remains inside the nest laying eggs. The colony then expands rapidly reaching a maximum size of 4,000 to 5,000 workers and a nest of 10,000 to 15,000 cells in August and late September. At peak size, reproductive cells are built with new males and queens produced. Adult reproductives remain in the nest fed by the workers. New queens build up fat reserves to overwinter. Adult reproductives leave the parent colony to mate. After mating, males quickly die while fertilized queens seek protected places to overwinter.

  • Remember, yellowjackets normally build nests underground; so look at the base of trees, under piles of pine straw and bushes that provide protection.  They can build nests in your lawn.  There are hundreds of stories of people getting stung while mowing their lawns.  They can also build nests in odd places, including the inside of a home. There’s an on line video of just such a nest.
  • Invest in some traps.  I place yellowjacket traps in my front and back yards. I have successfully use a product called  WHY (wasps, hornets, yellowjackets) from Rescue.  This product works and the earlier you get it out the better. Remember you want to take down the Queen before the colony gets established.  More info here.
  • Review the information provided in this post and elsewhere.  In particular go the Epi Pen website and educate yourself and your family.  There is an excellent video on how to use the Epi Pen and many associates topics and issues.
  • INFORM OTHERS – Share this information with family and friends.  This could be in the form of an email, or you could ask to have a mention of this in your school bulletin,  or church bulletin (or other place of worship) and where you work.  Tell others, you could save someone’s life.

More yellowjacket pictures, up close and personal!




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  2. kimc

    Two years ago I rushed myself to the ER after a yellow jacket attack while mowing my lawn. I was lucky to have a bee keeper within a couple miles of my house. The nest he dug up was 6 layers deep. Stung again this week thought nothing major but durng a job physical 2 days afterward my blood pressure is 130/97 which has always been lower than average before.I also have a headache and my vision is slightly blurry at times. I read an artical on acute disseminated encephalophathy.Now I’m paranoid.

    1. sandstone


      If your vision is suddenly blurry and you have other symptoms that didn’t exist before the stings you are not necessarily paranoid. I was sick for many days after I was last stung. Again, I had been stung in the past and never suffered any serious consequences until last summer. My reaction to stings this year was even more rapid and severe.

      You might consider seeing a doctor if things don’t improve.

  3. Lois

    Yesterday I was stung by little yellow swarming bees.They got under my close and repeatedly stung me.Ihave about one and a half dozen bites.Swelling,itching and pain where the larger cluster of bites are.I have done ice and Cordizone-10.What else can I do for releif fast?

    1. sandstone


      So sorry to hear this. My guess is those swarming bees were yellowjackets … two different things. You will probably be miserable for the next few days.

      To help your itching and swelling go to your local drug store and get epsom salts and soak. This is an old remedy but it does help. Also, if haven’t do so already buy some Benadryl or other brand name allergy medication. I know it’s after the fact but this should also help with the itching.

      My druggist recommended a liquid dye-free allergy medication. It’s over the counter and easily found at CVS, Rite Aid, etc. Just for the heck of it I visited the Benadryl site … more info here:

  4. Beverly

    I, too, am allergic to vespids, and have had two emergencies in the past 6 years. I have an “atypical” reaction like you: dizziness, nausea, abdominal cramping with total loss of body control, and delayed congestion/raspiness. After having progressively more severe local reactions to bee stings over the years, 6 years ago I was stung once on the elbow, and it dropped me with the “atypical” reaction. Fortunately, the ER doc recognized the seriousness of the sting, and I had to have daily infusions of steriods and antibiotics for a week. He sent me to an allergist, and I’ve been taking weekly bee antigen shots to build up the immunity. However, in 6 years of shots, I’ve had to be hospitalized twice due to reactions to the shots, and only have been able to get up to on-half of a bee sting in venom concentration. In Feb. of this year, the allergist questioned if I even was benefitting from the shots….I got my answer last week when I was stung 7 times while raking up pine needles in the cool of the evening. I usually have my EpiPen on me, but had left it in the house, so when I felt the first sting, I ran for the phone and dialed 911, then grabbed four Benedryl Instant Wafers and put them under my tongue. Although I had waves of dizziness and nausea, and felt confused, I did not lose consciousness. The responding paramedics and fire crew, however, expressed doubt that I was allergic, even though my MedicAlert Bracelet was on me, because I did not have hives, throat swelling, or lung congestion. My daughter convinced them to take me by ambulance to the hospital, and of course 40 minutes later I was rasping and severely swollen. Because I never did experience a loss of airway during the initial minutes, I did not use the EpiPen–I am quite overweight and in my late 50’s, and I worried about giving myself a heart attack with the epiniphrine. Frankly, I honestly believe that the immediate use of the antihystemine and the cummulative effects of the antigen shots saved my life. I am annoyed, however, at both the paramedics and the triage nurse, who seemed to pooh-pooh my condition because it did not present as the “typical” bee sting. Frankly, a lowered heart rate and sudden drop in blood pressure are more threatening than a swollen airway, which can be bypassed artificially! Thanks again for posting—I am somewhat consoled knowing that there are others out there who have had a similar “atypical” experience.

  5. catsden

    I too have to carry Epi-pens everywhere I go; Usually the first sting is painful but not deadly; the second can kill you in four mins or so if you are severely allergic. I’m glad you wrote about this and I hope your post saves someone’s life. By the way, the sting of a honey bee or a black widow could cause a severe reaction too, so while you are checking the yard look for them too. I leave my honey bees alone and stay out of their way, but I don’t allow black widows. Thanks for the post, really; I get sloppy in my yard sometimes because gardening makes me so happy.

    1. admin Post author

      I had to go out and buy a second yellowjacket trap this afternoon. Today I saw a couple of the critters and it’s only mid April. Both traps are outside … hope they perform as advertised!

      BTW, I read a few more facts about the the YJ’s that surprised me … like they have teeth in addition to their stingers and unlike bees they can sting multiple times and not die! Who knew?

      Enjoy your gardening . . . I know what your mean . . .and take care.

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