Have you seen more yellow jackets than usual this year? Many hikers are reporting more than usual of the sometimes-aggressive wasps.
The Department of Natural Resources responded to concerns about the wasps recently.
Apparently there is a persistent rumor, one I’d never heard, that the DNR releases yellow jackets. They don’t.
The DNR has a theory on why there are so many yellow jackets this year.
“This year seems to be a banner year for yellow jackets, bald faced hornets, and similar stinging insects. It may be related to the cool, spring conditions that boosted the population of aphids, a popular food source for yellow jackets. Aphids are the full meal deal. They are “meat” to predatory yellow jackets. When aphids suck plant juices, they take in sugary fluids, but not much protein. They keep sucking to obtain more protein, excreting extra, unneeded sugary fluids as droplets that are commonly called “honeydew.” Yellow jackets collect the honeydew droplets from the rear ends of the aphids themselves. Some collect the sticky, sugary liquid or dried sugars from other surfaces like stems, leaves, or parked cars beneath aphid-infested trees. It may have been the honeydew droplets in the spring that are allowing yellow jackets to thrive now.”
The WTA has an excellent list of tips to minimize problems with yellow jackets while you are outdoors.