How to Kill Yellow Jackets and Prevent Infestation

spray can near dead yellow jacket
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If they build a hive near or inside your home, you need to know how to kill yellow jackets. Yellow jackets are aggressive, dangerous insects that build huge nests on the ground. They like many of the same foods that humans consume, including protein, so don’t be surprised if you see one buzzing around your hamburger.

One or two yellow jackets might not be a cause for alarm, but if you see many of these wasps flying around where you live or your children play, it’s sensible to try and get rid of them.

However, these wasps are difficult to kill effectively, especially if you want to avoid being stung.

While you can minimize the risk of being stung by wearing multiple layers of clothing and working to kill them during the night when they are less active, and their numbers are more concentrated, finding methods to control their population effectively is still difficult.

If you're determined to try to eliminate yellow jackets on your own, try these five methods.

WARNING: Yellow jackets are aggressive and territorial. Unless your infestation is severe or in danger of growing worse, try to repel or deter them as opposed to killing them.

Crushing or violently killing one of these wasps in the proximity of others releases alarm pheromones that trigger the others to attack. So, if you are set on a lethal option, make sure you can take out all of their numbers and not just some.

What Kills Yellow Jackets?

1. Boiling Water

Boiling water is an excellent way to kill yellow jackets, at least under certain circumstances. It is a particularly viable way of destroying an inaccessible underground hive, as it can flow freely down into an entrance and kill the occupants.

It is also a great weapon to use in your own yard because once it cools, the water poses no chemical or physical dangers to surrounding plants and animals whatsoever.

However, boiling water has its downsides. It is difficult to handle. It is also impossible to use on a nest that is up high, which is a common strategy that yellow jackets use to protect their hives.

It also doesn't work 100 percent of the time, even under the most ideal conditions. Depending on the internal structure of their hive, a waterfall of hot water may just make them angry. Definitely wear long clothes and a veil if possible if you attempt this method.

2. Projectile Sprays

Projectile sprays are commercial products that are designed to be sprayed on yellow jacket nests. They are nearly the opposite of boiling water in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

As projectile sprays can have ranges of roughly 20 feet, they are great at hitting yellow jacket nests that are high out of reach, and they are also excellent at killing yellow jackets from a safe distance.

However, certain chemicals can have harmful side effects and be dangerous to wanted plants or animals. Additionally, chemicals can hang around long after they have been sprayed.

Sometimes projectile sprays are the only way to wipe out a hive of yellow jackets effectively. However, they have enough downsides that they should be used sparingly, and only if other options are not available.

3. Kerosene Fumes

Kerosene or gasoline fumes are toxic to wasps and can therefore kill your infestation. This is good for airborne nests.

While wearing your protective clothing, take an open can of gasoline and position it carefully so it's just below the nest. After a short time, the rising fumes continually penetrating the nest will start killing them.

4. Mint Oil

Mint oil can be used to kill yellow jackets effectively. However, applying it to a flying, stinging insect can be difficult, and applying it to the entrance of a hive is no different than applying boiling water. Whether you try to spray nearby yellow jackets or drown the hive, it is a safety risk.

Plus, mint oil can be chemically poisonous to other animals, so keep pets and other peaceful wildlife away during and after your application.

5. Traps

You can make a yellow jacket trap out of a two-liter bottle. Simply cut the bottle in half, fill the lower half with sugar water, and place the upper half upside down inside the remaining lower half.

Press down firmly and seal off the outer edge with tape so it is airtight. The end result is the lower half of a soda bottle with a small, funnel-shaped entrance.

Yellow jackets will be able to get in, and they will want to enter to get the sugar inside. However, they will not be able to get out afterward. Doing this can seriously reduce the yellow jacket population.

yellow hornet

Naturally Killing Yellow Jackets

While there are many chemical products on the market designed to get rid of yellow jackets, there are a few easy natural methods that you should try first.

Warning: Yellow Jackets' stings can cause pain and itching, and unlike bees, they can sting you more than once. Always wear protective clothing like a face veil and gloves when getting rid of wasps.

Seek proper medical attention if you are stung. Be especially aware of children who’ve never been stung before, as they could be allergic to a yellow jacket's sting.

Dish Soap Solution

The rule of thumb usually is to leave wasps alone if they are not bothering you because they are doing more good than harm in your garden. And, it's always better to prevent a wasp infestation rather than deal with one. However, if they are posing a threat, the dish-soap solution should be the first you try.

Wait until nighttime to try this method so that the wasps will be inactive inside their nest. Mix 5-6 tablespoons of either Dawn or Joy dish soap in a bucket half full of water.

Before pouring the mixture down the nest’s entry hole, put on protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, cap, hat, and glasses.

If possible, use a tool, like a gas can or watering hose, to empty the mixture into the nest in order to stay as far away from the nest opening as possible.

Homemade Traps

A cheaper alternative to store-bought traps, homemade yellow-jacket traps do just the trick. These traps are simple to assemble.

While there are many different ways to make homemade wasp traps, one of the most tried and true is by using an old plastic soda bottle. You can use any size. First, unscrew the cap and discard it; you won’t need it. Then, about 1/4 the way down the bottle, make a cut completely across.

Now, you should have two plastic pieces. Pour a sweet liquid into the base piece you've cut off, likely about 2-3 inches worth, but the exact amount depends on your bottle size. Just be sure there is space between the liquid and the cap opening.

This liquid can be anything sweet, like old soda, juice, or apple cider vinegar. Then, add a few squirts of dish soap to it and mix well. Now, place the top plastic piece (the one where the cap once was) and place it upside down in the larger piece.

The two pieces should fit snugly together, but you can use tape around the outside for extra security.

The sweet drink will attract the wasps to come in, but they won’t easily be able to get out. This is just one variation of the homemade wasp-trap method, but there are many more. Make sure that all of the wasps are dead before touching the bottle to dispose of it.

Natural Yellow-Jacket Insecticide

The most effective way to get rid of yellow jacket wasps is to use an insecticide. Be sure to choose one that is non-toxic and eco-friendly, as many insecticides are made of harsh chemicals.

Always remember to wear protective clothing and cover yourself well with a face veil and gloves when you approach the nest to spray the wasps.

The best time to spray is the late evening or early morning when most of the wasps are in their nests. Spray them from a distance of at least 10 feet. You will need to spray insecticide every few weeks or so until the yellow jackets are permanently gone.

Will Vinegar Kill Yellow Jackets?

Vinegar probably won't kill yellow jackets. Vinegar can be a good deterrent, but it's more likely to shoo away a Yellow Jacket than completely kill it.

Professional Help

This approach is preferable because exterminators are trained to identify the stinging insect and offer the best solution.

Sometimes, it is recommended to repeat the procedure in order to ensure yellow jackets are gone for good. They will also make sure the stinging insects are not nesting nearby, getting rid of their colonies.

The worst thing about yellow jackets is that they are gossipers: if one finds something interesting or sweet to explore, it will bring back the whole population, especially if their nest is near.

If you already tried alternative methods without success, maybe it is time to seek professional help. The only drawback here is the price, which is higher than the one of all other methods, but effectiveness is guaranteed.


Multiple yellow jacket stings are dangerous for small kids and even for non-allergic adults: large amounts of poison in the blood may cause allergic reactions. Be careful if you notice even a single yellow jacket in your attic or home. They may soon multiply, so take precautions immediately.

Avoid annoying yellow jackets because they may become aggressive. If you stay calm, they will rather ignore you, and you will avoid unpleasant or even dangerous confrontations with them.

To prevent yellow jackets from infesting your home, you will need to first remove nests.

The first thing you will need to do is to check to see if there are any existing yellow jacket nests. If there are, you will need to remove them before you can start any preventative measures to make sure the yellow jackets stay away for good.

You can purchase yellow jacket bait and apply it to and around the nest. Most yellow jackets like to nest underground or in and around walls. You will need to find their entrance and exits and push in some of the yellow jacket bait.

After you do this, seal up their exits and entrances. This will cause them to die inside their nesting locations. Never do this during the daylight hours. Yellow jackets return to their homes in the evenings. After dusk has arrived, you can go in and apply the bait and sealing techniques.

At least three or four times a year, you will want to spray the exterior of your home with a yellow jacket pest control spray. The pest control spray can be found at many local home improvement centers.

If you call your local exterminator, they should also be able to give you product recommendations. Since yellow jackets love to nest in walls, check for any open spots where they can start a nest.

Concentrate on spraying these locations thoroughly. Time your sprayings with the changes in seasons. This will help to prevent further nesting.

If you have noticed that yellow jackets like to nest in a specific area on your home’s exterior, provide a barrier at those locations and continue to spray the repellent. Do not attempt to do this until dusk and dawn. During this time of day, there will be less yellow jacket activity.

Keep a lookout around your home. You should make a survey part of your maintenance plan. This process involves more than just walking around the exterior of your home to spot nests in the brick, vinyl, or other exterior home material.

You need to look at the activities in the trees, on the ground, and under mulched beds. Yellow jackets, if they go unnoticed, will quickly infest your home and surrounding landscaping.

It is usually a good idea to visually inspect your grounds whenever you take out the lawnmower and trim the grass.

Yellow Jacket Prevention FAQ

What do yellow jackets hate the most?

Plants in the mint family are a natural deterrent for yellow jackets. The smell of spearmint and peppermint, in particular, repel them.

What is the best home remedy to kill yellow jackets?

To get rid of yellow jackets without causing them harm and using pretty common household items, mix a solution of water, a couple of tablespoons of liquid dish soap, and several drops of peppermint oil in a spray bottle. Spray this liberally on and all around the nest.

The smell of peppermint should drive out the wasps naturally.

Another natural deterrent is a fake wasp nest. Hang it up near the existing nest, and the yellow jackets should choose to leave on their own, as they do not like to share their territory.

What is a natural enemy to yellow jackets?

Mammals like raccoons, bears, skunks, and badgers eat yellowjacket nests, gobbling them up adult yellow jackets and all.

What does vinegar do to yellow jackets?

Vinegar is a yellow jacket repellent. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and use this on wasp nests and other areas where you have seen wasps.

What happens when you destroy a yellow jacket nest?

Yellow jackets are highly protective of their queen and of their home. This means they will become aggressive when under attack.

They may sting, burrow through a different part of the nest to escape the nest in a hurry, and become extremely erratic.

Many people advise against attempting to destroy a wasp nest without professional aid because they are highly aggressive, and destroying a wasp nest can be very dangerous.