Yellow Jackets in the Kale?

prairiemoon2 z6 MAJuly 10, 2014

I noticed quite a few Yellow Jackets cruising through the Kale yesterday. Then out the window, I saw a couple more looking for flowers on a Ninebark shrub. I'm seeing barely a bee and now yellow jackets instead. I'm wondering if I should go looking for a nest somewhere or would that be a bad idea?

Anyone else seeing a lot of yellow jackets this year? Is there any particular crop or garden variable that attracts them?

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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

They were most likely searching for cabbage worms on your kale plants. They kill the caterpillars to use as food for their babies. And they were after the nectar in your ninebark flower. No reason for you to go after their nest unless you know it's in a bad spot that might get disturbed.


This post was edited by theforgottenone1013 on Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 6:50

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 6:29AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

That's interesting, I didn't realize that yellow jackets could be beneficial at all. I have seen quite a few cabbage moths this season, so I guess that's a good thing. And I'll just check the obvious places that would be a problem if they were there. Glad I don't have to think about having a confrontation with them. Did you figure that out by observation? Thanks, Rodney.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 6:34AM
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Ugh. Hate getting stung, love their predatory instincts.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 6:36AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Oh, so does that mean the more brassicas I grow, the more yellow jackets I'll have in the garden? Oh, joy.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 6:43AM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

"Did you figure that out by observation?"

Years ago I watched a yellow jacket hunt down a cabbage worm that was on my kohlrabi and carry it off. I thought it was interesting so I went online to look up more info. That's when I find out they do it to feed the babies. And I've watched them do it on many more occasions since then.

"Oh, so does that mean the more brassicas I grow, the more yellow jackets I'll have in the garden?"

That I can't answer. :)


Here is a link that might be useful: About Yellow Jackets and the Benefits of Wasps in the Garden

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 6:55AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Cool that you actually saw them targeting the caterpillars. I hope we can co-exist then. I'm very aware of them and give them a wide berth. No small kids to consider. I'll have to keep an eye out when our son visits with his dog is all. I only have one bed of brassicas now, so that won't be too bad.

Thanks for that link, Rodney. :-)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 7:04AM
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In years when we have multiple yellow jacket nests on the property, I can grow worm-free fall broccoli and cabbage without help from Bt or spinosad. One year the cabbageworm population was huge, ditto yellow jackets. The cabbage whites laid eggs all morning, and the yellow jackets harvested hatchlings all day. They like 'em best when the worms are less than one-half inch long.

We scout for nests in mid-morning or evening light, when it's easy to see the wasps coming and going from the ground. Then we flag them to make sure we stay out of their nesting territory. I have noticed that new nests often show up this time of year. I'm glad to see them as long as I know where they are.

It's not hard to coexist peacefully with yellow jackets or similarly beneficial bald-faced hornets. The only time I've been stung is when a fox (or something) tore up a nest and left the pieces in the driveway. The upset survivors defended those nest pieces for a week!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:03AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Are they always ground dwelling nests? Do you just see a hole in the ground where they are coming and going from?

We have a small yard, 1/4 acre lot. The vegetable garden takes up a third of the back and is near the sitting areas. We also have a grapevine above a sitting area that has grapes this year. We just covered that with bird netting. I understand that yellow jackets are fond of grapes though. Not so sure that sitting area is going to be a popular place. [g]

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:14AM
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Yes, in mid-morning you can see the yellow jackets spewing out of the ground hole like popcorn out of a hot air popper. The hole is maybe an inch wide, with only a small amount of disturbed soil around it.

The nests may not be on your property, just close. I've found them in open lawn, in garden pathways, and under rotting juniper roots. I suspect that old vole holes are popular places to establish a colony.

This year the bald faced hornets (gray circular paper nest) have built a huge nest suspended from a rung of the orchard ladder. It's only a few feet outside the basement door, fun to watch even if we can't use the ladder.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:52AM
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Use BT to control cabbage worms.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 1:21PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks Planatus, I'll check it out. I hope they are not on our property. :-) We usually get a paper wasp nest every year, starting under our front door canopy. But we know to look for it and knock it off when it's very small. We have a garden bed of perennials right near the front door, so can't blame them. I'm less concerned by the paper wasps then the yellow jackets for some reason.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 5:31PM
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If you do find a nest where you don't want it, you can go out at night and cover the hole with a punch bowl or cake cover (see link below). I buy an old cake cover at the thrift store each summer so I'll have one if I need it.

Here is a link that might be useful: cake cover for yellow jackets

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 8:04AM
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Wasps are major insect predators. I have also seen them fly off with a cabbage worm. I have also seen one perched on spot on my back porch where there's lots of flies, and snatch a fly in mid-flight as one came too close. I figured he could do that any time he wanted. He came back a few minutes later and I watched him fail at numerous subsequent attempts. Anyway, I have very huge and healthy Kale, Collards and Brussels Sprouts this year. I have cabbage butterflies floating thru the veg garden constantly. I have watched them laying eggs. But I have pulled off only one cabbage worm so far and there appears to be only sparse minimal worm damage. I can't say but I do at least partially credit wasp predation. But then again, I also have chickens running around in there this year.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 1:13PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Planatus, that's a great solution and an organic one. I have a glass cake cover too. Going out at night is key for safety I imagine. Thanks for the link too.

tcstoehr, that's very encouraging, because I haven't been able to get out there and keep on top of trying to get rid of cabbage moths or their worms. Chickens running around? How is that working out? Do you find them doing any damage to your plants?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 5:36PM
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We have paper wasps, and they inspect the garden constantly, looking for caterpillars, examining every leaf.

Unless you accidentally grab one while harvesting, they aren't aggressive while they are hunting. And unless their nests are in an inconsiderate spot, like on the handle of my weedeater, I leave them alone.

FREE mobile, 100% organic, self-reproducing pest control.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 5:47PM
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shermthewerm(8 PNW)

I have a hard time distinguishing between wasps, yellow jackets, hornets....
I do see many one of them (not sure which) constantly around my turnips, kale, etc. and have also witnessed them going after cabbage worms. They never bother me, even when I'm right next to them watering. I appreciate their help!
To Prairiemoon, I also have chickens running around, but everything that I don't want them in is fenced! Otherwise they would eat it all. When I have extra, or something is completely covered in aphids, I just pull it & toss it to them. Win/win as I now have another place to plant something & they're getting their veggies. They do a very good job at controlling bugs (at least the ones the have access to). The more bugs/greens they eat the darker & richer are the yolks.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 8:38PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

lazygardens, I think I prefer the paper wasps over the yellow jackets. We haven't eaten dinner outside yet this year, but I wonder if the increase in yellow jackets is going to be a problem when we do.

Sherm, sounds like you are enjoying your chickens! :-)

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 4:29AM
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I have chickens in the garden, too, and use poly poultry netting and wire cages to keep them out of specified areas. They don't forage more than chicken-head high, so they won't clean little worms off of broccoli like a wasp or hornet. But they have a major impact on crawly creatures in general. We no longer have ticks in the 1.5 fenced acres patrolled by 4-5 hens. .

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 6:50AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Having chickens used to be on my list of things to do in the garden eventually, but I've cooled off on the idea the last couple of years. Having a hard time keeping up with regular garden work I just think I would be biting off more than I could chew. But the biggest issue for me, is that they stop laying eggs after a certain number of years and then what do you do with the chickens? I've read that a lot of people don't want to kill their chickens for meat and then look for homes for them. I definitely wouldn't be up for killing chickens for meat, so I think I may as well just leave well enough alone. lol

Sounds like a great solution for ticks. If I had a big tick population, I'd probably think more seriously about that. I read a lot of posts about real tick problems some people had this spring. Looks like chickens would be well worth it in that situation.

You know what I would love, is if there was some kind of chicken 'library' where you could borrow chickens for about three weeks and then return them. lol

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 7:05AM
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shermthewerm(8 PNW)

Prairiemoon, I do really enjoy having chickens. I have 4 hens that are over 5 years, and I haven't noticed a drop in egg production. I added 5 more last fall. I get an average of 6 eggs a day. We only see a drop in the winter (chickens need a certain number of hours of light). I'm with you, though. I named all of my chickens, so they're not going to be on my dinner table!
Maybe someone would let you borrow a few chickens for a few weeks so they could do some bug control in your yard.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:40AM
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In my case, the chickens didn't arrive until all the brassicas were quite large. The chickens pick at the outermost, older leaves which doesn't do much damage to the plants. They don't seem to bother my squashes, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, carrots or leeks. Not even the tender beet leaves. Next year the chickens will be fully grown when the garden is starting. I will likely have to do some active chicken control then. Even now the chickens might just discover that they like zucchinis or other baby squashes. And when the tomatoes ripen, that could be a problem. I just don't know yet.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:31AM
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This is a great discussion about the bees! My husband mowed a yellow jacket nest a few years ago and they chased him and stung him multiple times (and he had that pre-allergic reaction major swelling thing) -- so the hint on watching for the nest and flagging it is an excellent idea.

There are too few bees around anymore--I don't want to be killing any of them.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:34AM
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shermthewerm(8 PNW)

tcstoehr, I can't believe your chickens aren't interested in the veggies you mentioned--especially the beet greens. Nothing is safe in my garden.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:53AM
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conchitaFL(10 Hutchinson Island)

LOL, prairiemoon. I have a friend who says that's why she doesn't keep chickens, because she knows she would wind up running a retirement home for old hens. :)

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 11:24AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

LOL Conchita, exactly! If I was 20 years younger, I might seriously think about it. ;-)

Elisa, I'm glad you caught this thread, sounds like your husband is developing a serious allergy. Good luck!

Sherm, I can imagine that having chickens is enjoyable. I grew up watching Shirley Temple in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and was fascinated being a city kid. And when our kids were young, we used to take them to the local 4H fair and see the chickens and rabbits and sheep, etc. Always had an interest.

At the moment, I have the impression that the ecology of our garden is fairly balanced. But if I was struggling with the bugs, I wouldn't hesitate to find some chicken lover and ask to borrow his chickens. :-)

Tcstoehr, I look forward to hearing how your chickens are working out next year.

Maybe we can see some photos of all the chickens too?

Has anyone ever seen Eliot Coleman's 'Duckingham Palace'? I always thought that was the best set up for keeping feathered friends I've ever seen.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 3:08PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Elisa, afaik yellow jackets are a type of wasp ie whereas bees, although related, are a different order of insects. Bees don't predate other invertebrates. They are vegetarian and (mostly) docile. Both types of insects are important pollinators.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 2:42AM
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Here's two of my chickens among my collard greens earlier in the season. The chickens never touched those plants until months later when the chickens were much larger. And by then a few lost leaves was no big deal, especially since I'm currently drowning in a sea of collard greens and kale.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 12:08PM
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