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How to Find a Yellow Jacket Hive

By Mandy Slake ; Updated September 21, 2017

In order to eliminate a yellow jacket hive, first you have to find it. Finding it is the hard part because yellow jackets make their nests underground. They enlarge existing holes, such as rodent burrows. A large yellow jacket colony may number up to 15,000 individuals. Yellow jackets get increasingly aggressive and persistent as the summer turns into fall, and their normal insect prey becomes more scarce. They often bother people trying to eat outdoors, and since they are wasps, they can sting repeatedly. The only way to permanently get rid of them is to destroy the nest.

Look for workers leaving or returning to the nest. This is best done on a bright, sunny morning in an open area.

Stand in a location where you can look across the area, and look for yellow jackets flying by. Yellow jackets tend to fly in a straight line when leaving the nest, so if you see several of them flying in one direction, odds are they came from the nest area.

Set out bait if you can't see the workers traveling from the nest. Yellow jackets prefer meat in spring and early summer, but their tastes shift towards sweet foods in late summer and fall.

Place a spoonful of canned cat food, raw chicken skin, ground hamburger, or sweet jelly on a plate and wait for the yellow jackets to show up.

Follow the workers as they leave the plate. They will head straight back to the nest.


Things You Will Need

  • Paper plate
  • Food bait


  • Do not attempt to approach the yellow jacket hive during the day. Just note the location of the nest, and wait until after dark to return with insecticide. The yellow jackets will be inside the nest and less likely to attack.