I got out early to finish setting out my fall broccoli, and it's a good thing I did. As the morning warmed, I realized I was not alone. Only a foot from where I'd been working for an hour, yellow jackets began shooting out of a 1-inch hole in the ground like popcorn from a hot air popper.
Heart pounding, I did what I did last year when a yellow jacket nest appeared in the butternuts. I popped an old cake cover over the entry hole, and weighted it with a brick.
It's the most natural way I know to deal with a badly placed yellow jacket nest, and folks have been doing it for a long time. Before there were translucent plastic cake covers, people used large glass bowls. The wasps buzz around inside the cover for a week or so, but because they can't leave to gather food and water, the colony basically starves to death. The light that comes through the cover convinces the wasps that there's hope, so they don't try to dig an alternate entry hole.
It's not that I don't like yellow jackets. As Terry Krautwurst eloquently explains in Wasps!, yellow jackets are major beneficials, and this time of year they are all over my garden. They drink water from the bird bath, feed on composting fruit, and seem to spend a lot of time looking for meaty insects among weeds and grasses. As I watch them, it's clear that they know way more than I do about every aspect of my garden — weather, plants, insects, birds — the whole enchilada.
But you have to draw the line somewhere, and I draw mine at the garden fence. Nests outside the garden's boundary get to stay, but inner garden incursions are met with the lethal cake cover. Try it. It works.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
Photos by Barbara Pleasant