Many wasps in the northeast, such as baldfaced hornets, yellow jackets, and paper wasps are considered a threat to public health, and many species inflict medically significant stings to humans. In fact, during the late summer of 2017, a Massachusetts man was killed was killed after sustaining numerous stings inflicted by a swarm of yellow jacket wasps. The man was healthy and only 48 years-old when he succumbed to the yellow jacket attack while mowing his lawn. Although deadly wasps rarely kill people in the northeast, their nests are frequently found on lawns in the region.

All wasps within a colony die before the winter season, except for the queen. Overwintering queen wasps become active during the first warm days during the spring season and they immediately begin to feed on plant nectar while also searching for nesting sites before producing a colony. During this time of year, queen wasps become abundant within residential regions where many species establish new colony nesting sites within trees, shrubs, bushes, on the exterior of homes, and in rare cases, inside homes. Nests are often established on properties without the owner’s knowledge. Not knowing about the presence of a wasp nest on a property is why most wasp attacks occur, as residents often brush against bushes and trees where nesting wasps may reside. Such disturbances often prompt wasps to emerge from their obscured nests in order to violently defend the queen and her colony.

Yellow jackets, baldfaced hornets, and paper wasps can sense the significant vibrations produced by lawn mowers and weed trimmers. When these lawn care machines approach nests hidden in bushes or below decks, the intensity of the vibrations can prompt wasps to attack. This often occurs when lawn mowers and weed trimmers approach below ground yellow jacket nests. Wasps also become threatened when a person’s shadow is cast over nest openings, which makes wasps the meanest-tempered insect pests in the northeast.

Have you ever been confronted by a wasp swarm?