Yellow jackets invade at lunch

by Casey Cross

Over the month of September, a persistent pest has affected those who eat outside during lunch periods at Bellbrook High School: yellow jackets. Every day, these wasps, numbering usually between two to ten, have made outdoor eating among friends a tiresome affair.

With the approach of fall, yellow jackets are set to become more aggressive and more numerous. Scott Famous, executive board member of the Montgomery County Beekeepers’ Association of Pennsylvania explained this in an interview with The Washington Post, “When the weather turns colder, food sources disappear and they begin to starve. Starvation makes them angry and aggressive as they work harder to seek food.” With their queen done laying eggs, and the young no longer needing to be fed, more yellow jackets can abdicate their prior duties to seek out their own food source; in this case, the courtyard tables housing Bellbrook students.

Two yellow jackets in the Bellbrook High School courtyard feasting on a chunk of an apple. Courtesy of Connor Luby.

The yellow jackets first appeared on September 5, as three swarmed the apple of Bellbrook senior, Harrison Shupe. “I was functionally unable to consume my foods… No one wants a bee in their mouth.” Other students noted their increasing annoyance with the insects as the days went by – some resorting to leaving open applesauce cup on empty tables to divert the attention of the wasps.

It is unlikely that the wasps will be leaving in the near future. As reported by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR), “Once wasps discover food, they will continue to hunt around that location long after the source has been removed.” With an almost daily source of sweet and sugary foods and fruits like apples, a variety of apple sauces, pears, and peaches, it is unlikely that they will ever abandon such a consistent feeding location. 

There are many things to remember when dealing with yellow jackets. Ignore or avoid them. If you aren’t threatening them, or in their general area, they won’t be a threat to you – this includes simply ignoring them while eating, or avoiding eating outside. Limit sweets and sweet smells. Yellow jackets are on the hunt for sugars and sweets. One of the most effective means of avoiding them is to not have what they want, including sweet foods like fruits, candies, and some drinks, or sweet smells from shampoos or perfumes. Most importantly, do not kill them. As reported in a blog by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Avoid squashing and swatting yellow jackets because it is counterproductive. When a yellow jacket is squashed, a chemical (pheromone) is released that attracts and incites nearby yellow jackets.”

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