I was bothered by yellow jackets when I lived at Lake Tahoe. My house backed up to a hundred acres of government land that was pretty much untouched and full of yellow jacket nests. I couldn’t serve dinner outside without having to fight them for my own food!
Fertile queens winter underground in old rodent holes, in tree stumps and old logs. As soon as the weather starts to warm, they will leave their winter burrow and set out to build a nest. This is the time to catch them, before they build enough of a nest to start laying their first eggs. If you catch the queen you have no nest.
I must state that yellow jackets have a definite positive effect on the ecosystem. They eat the larvae of many insects that we would rather not have around. They feed their young the liquified remains of caterpillars and flies. But sometimes when they are unchecked, there will be so many it is hard to coexist with them. And they can be dangerous if the nest is in an area close to where your children might be playing, as they will aggressively defend it.
The year after I was inundated with them I hung out two yellow jacket traps as soon as the snow began to melt and it was clear that spring was coming. I caught 16 queens. The next summer came and guess what? I spotted very few yellow jackets. I’m amazed that there is a ton of information on the internet about how to destroy yellow jacket nests when it seems much easier to me to prevent the nest before it is built.
The queens are easy to identify. They are bigger, they have two pairs of wings, their abdomens usually have more yellow, and they don’t have a stinger. You will definitely recognize them in your trap.
The following is a link to a blog that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about yellow jackets, including how to recognize the queens, females and workers of the different species. Knowledge is power!
The featured photo is used with permission from http://www.backyardchirper.com