A few weeks ago, I wrote about armyworms showing up in our area weeks before they are usually here.
This past week, they showed up in force, and there were many calls to my office about them.
Because they are here so early, they could be attacking lawns, pastures and hayfields well into the fall and there could be more generations of these insects yet to come.
All the rain also has brought out the millipedes. They are coming into homes looking for dry ground.
They can come in by the thousands, and they can be hard to control. The best control is to use a home pest control product and spray around the foundation of the house, garage and doors and windows.
Another insect that I am getting some calls on is the yellow jacket. Those calls also are coming in earlier than usual; normally, calls about yellow jackets start in September.
Yellow jackets are house-fly-sized wasps with distinct yellow and black markings and a few hairs.
Like other wasps, yellow jackets make a paper nest. It is usually located underground. They like to build the nest in stumps and stump holes, under shrubs, or any void they can find underground. Occasionally, yellow jackets will nest in attics, old cars, storage buildings or in walls of homes and buildings.
A yellow jacket nest will start in the spring of the year with a queen. She finds a nest site and starts to build the nest. Once the queen has produced enough workers to take over nest building and foraging duties, she stays inside the nest and produces more offspring.
The workers' other duties besides building the nest and foraging for food are to feed the young and defend the nest.
By late summer, a yellow jacket nest will have about 800 workers. This is the time of the year that most people find the nest because of the large number of workers seen entering and leaving the nest.
Late summer also is the time of the year when the next generation of queens is produced. Males are produced at this time too. The new queens and the males have a mating flight. After mating, the males die and the new queens find a sheltered spot to spend the winter.
This year's nest will be abandoned by wintertime. Usually, the nest is not used again by yellow jackets. However, nests found in Alabama and South Carolina have been used for many years, and these nests have many queens and thousands of workers.
Yellow jackets become more aggressive in the fall. There are several reasons for this. For one, the population of the nest is at its highest, so it takes more food for the colony and the wasps are more prone to protect their food source.
I have also heard that they become more aggressive because the days are getting shorter. I don't know if this is true, but it sounds good.
I have a yellow jacket nest in my yard that I have been watching for several weeks. They are beginning to become more aggressive.
As yellow jackets become more aggressive, it is important to watch for them. This is the best prevention from stinging. Watching for wasps entering and leaving an area is essential to finding a yellow jacket nest before someone steps on it. Also, keeping lids on garbage cans can reduce the chance of being stung.
People are often stung when they leave drinks uncovered. The yellow jackets will get into the can, and the sting will be painful.
What needs to be done when a yellow jacket nest is discovered?
If the nest is out of the way or in an area where no one goes, it can be left alone. Yellow jackets are beneficial insects. They prey on many insects that we consider pests, especially caterpillars.
If the nest is in an area that endangers people, it should be removed. The best control is to apply a pesticide directly into the nest opening. This can be accomplished by using one of the wasp and hornet sprays that shoot 10 to 15 feet.
The best time of the day to do this is late in the afternoon, as close to dark as possible. The whole can of spray is sprayed into the hole. This treatment might need to be repeated in a day or two.
Don't use a light of any kind; the yellow jackets will follow the light back to its source.
It is not recommended that gasoline be poured down the hole. This is extremely hazardous and environmentally unfriendly. Gasoline can get into groundwater.
Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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