EVERETT — As summer turned to fall, uninvited guests have been showing up in great numbers to backyard barbecues.
Yellow jackets like soda, bratwursts and tuna fish sandwiches as well as other meats and sweets.
At this time of year, they are more likely to gravitate to the patio gathering. They’re hungry and many plants have stopped blooming, causing other insects they dine on to die off. That means they are looking to expand their menu.
“The bottom line is they are at peak populations now and are looking for any kind of food they can,” Dave Pehling, an entomologist with WSU Extension-Snohomish County, recently said.
The backyard buffet certainly isn’t their only refuge.
They’ll hang out around the blackberry brambles for the last sips of juice or scavenge the spoils of rotting fallen apples among the fruit trees.
Local beekeepers report yellow jackets and other wasps trying to get into their hives.
Travis Hots, chief for the Getchell fire district, recently took up beekeeping and installed what he called a reducer at the hive entrance for such intrusions. That helps the guard bees keep trespassers at bay.
“I wouldn’t consider it like a huge problem but the wasps and yellow jackets are trying to get into the hives,” he said.
Some beekeepers are reporting trouble with yellow jackets, Pehling said. The invaders aren’t just looking for honey, but will sometimes feast on exposed bee larvae. They’ll team up to get in and try to find opportunities around the edges.
Entomologists are quick to defend yellow jackets and wasps, saying they feed on insects that damage shade trees and crops. They also kill houseflies and blowflies.
Yet Pehling concedes, “When they are eating your hot dog or come out and sting you for no apparent reason, it’s hard to look on them in a kind light.”
Pehling’s advice for now is to be patient and vigilant. All of the yellow jackets — save the queens — will die off when the frost hits.
That’s where the vigilance comes in to avoid an unwelcome winter surprise.
The queens will soon be looking for protection in dry, snug places, including boots and garden gloves.
Come spring, they’ll build small paper nests to lay their eggs and begin the cycle anew.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; email@example.com.