An Unprecedented Year for Yellowjackets

A Wet Winter and Hot Summer Leads to Dramatic Population Increase

Outdoor weddings can be magical. Imagine it. Amidst fragrant flowers, chairs rise from luscious green grass. A satin runner provides a shimmering walkway for the special couple. Twinkling lights hang from trees trimmed to create a natural canopy for the bride and groom to recite their vows. The sights and sounds offer more than ambiance. They create the magic. These are the preparations one county resident made for a wedding she planned to host in her own backyard. She spent months making sure everything would be perfect. And then they happened–groundnesting yellowjackets.

While placing finishing touches on an elevated part of the yard, she found herself suddenly under attack by yellowjackets that raced out of a small hole in the ground, enraged, trying to sting and bite. It’s a scenario that is happening over and over this summer in Contra Costa County. Yellowjackets are out in force–a side effect of the ample rain after California’s recent drought.

During the drought, vegetation died, and with it food and habitat for the insects. As a result, many yellowjackets died as well. Requests for groundnesting yellowjacket service decreased between the first and last year of the drought by 62.5 percent. This year, however, the number of requests for service is unprecedented.

Vector Control Aide Heidi Budge who has worked with the District’s yellowjacket program for eight seasons says she’s seen the size and number of nests in both rainy and drought years. This year, she’s received more daily inspection requests than she ever has before.

“In a typical season, I average three or four inspections per day, but so far this year, particularly this summer, I’ve averaged seven or eight requests per day. I’ve even arrived at work to find more than 20 requests waiting for me.”

The increase in yellowjacket activity prompted the District’s Yellowjacket Program Supervisor Sheila Currier to extend the District’s response time from 24 hours to up to four business days. She’s even had to call in reinforcements.

“When we didn’t see yellowjacket activity until April this year, we couldn’t imagine the population would grow so rapidly. They are out and they are everywhere. I’ve even had to ask employees of the mosquito, rat, mouse, and skunk teams to help with yellowjacket service calls, too.”

What can you do if you discover a yellowjacket nest on your property?

  • Locate, Mark & Map Nest Location ◦Find the nest and mark the location with a tool, stick or other object close to the nest.
    • Draw a simple map where the nest is located on the property.
    • Tape the map to the front door. The map helps the District inspector find the nest, which may be hidden.
  • Contact the District
    • Call, Email, or visit the District’s website to request yellowjacket service.

Back at the wedding site, wedding guests enjoyed the day with nary a yellowjacket in site, thanks to a visit by a District employee who treated the nest.

Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control

About Kevin

Councilmember - City of Oakley, Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit, Transplan, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and RD 2137, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction
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