What You Can Do: Yellowjackets and Wasps

a technician wearing a bee suit digs up an underground yellowjacket nest
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Yellowjacket and Wasp Nest Removal

The District provides control for ground nesting yellowjackets when the location of the nest is known. A yellowjacket nest looks like a small hole in the ground with many yellowjackets flying in and out. Without disturbing the nest, mark its location with a flag or other object so that the technician who comes to treat it will be able to find it.

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Dealing with Foraging Yellowjackets

 Foraging wasps and yellowjackets are often attracted to food, sugary drinks, and garbage with food residues. Keep your food and drinks covered to keep yellowjackets from landing on them, and check your food or drink before bringing it to your mouth. Keep garbage in closed containers.

Foraging wasps and yellowjackets are generally not very aggressive, but may sting in self-defense. DO NOT swat it – remain calm and wait for it to fly away.

a cluster of bees hanging from a branch
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Honeybee Nests and Swarms

The District does not provide service for honeybees.

A bee swarm will look like a cluster of bees hanging from a branch or other object. These bees have left their colony and are looking for a new home. They will move on in a few hours to a few days, so you can simply let them leave on their own if it’s safe to do so. If you want them removed, contact the San Mateo Beekeepers’ Guild; there is likely a local beekeeper that will provide them with a home.

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Africanized Honeybees

At this time, Africanized honeybees are not found in the Bay Area.

Africanized honeybees are more aggressive than European honey bees. They are quicker to defend their hives, more bees will participate in the defense, and they will follow a target (human or animal) further. This means that although their stings are not worse than European honey bees, they are more likely to cause injury or death to people or animals who are unable to escape their stings or who are allergic to bee stings.

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Treating Wasp and Bee Stings

Most wasp and bee stings are unpleasant but not life threatening. However, some people are allergic to bee and wasp stings. If you are allergic to bee or wasp stings and have been stung, or if you believe you are experiencing an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.

If you’ve been stung by a bee, remove the stinger(s) from your skin as quickly as you can. Try not to crush or squeeze the bee or stinger – this will just release more venom. You may want to use a credit card or other stiff material to scrape the stinger out of your skin.

General information

Frequently Asked Questions about Yellow Jackets

What’s the difference between yellow jackets and bees?

Yellow jackets feed on other insects as well as nectar, while bees feed only on nectar. Bees can only sting once while yellowjackets can sting multiple times. Yellowjackets have black and yellow stripes and shiny bodies while bees are fuzzy and brownish. Bees typically build hives in hollow trees high above the ground. Their hives contain wax combs. Yellowjackets build round paper nests either under the ground or hanging from tree branches. Bees produce honey and feed on nectar and pollen from flowers.

Commands