yellow jacket rotting apple

If you’ve noticed yellow jackets seem to be more aggressive now that fall is here, you aren’t imagining it.

Why are yellow jackets so aggressive in the fall?

Yellow jacket colonies reach their peak population of 1,000-4,000 workers[1] in late summer and early fall. The queens stop laying eggs near the end of summer and prepare to winter over and start a new colony in the spring. With no larvae to feed, the workers begin to forage for themselves. The result is a hive full of hungry yellow jackets who are fighting for limited resources.

Unlike honey bees who consume pollen, yellow jackets are scavengers who typically target high protein foods, like insects. As the weather gets colder, their food sources begin to diminish and their tastes change. They will begin to look for more plentiful sweet foods, like fruit, instead. Larger population numbers and change in resources mean they must compete for food, leading to some aggressive behavior.

Yellow jackets are also cold blooded and will be drawn to warmer places like buildings or inside houses. This means they may appear in places they didn’t frequent during the summer.

yellow jacket juice fruit straw

How can I prevent being stung by yellow jackets?

Avoid areas that attract yellow jackets like apple orchards, cider mills, picnic areas, and outdoor restaurant seating. If you plan on barbecuing you may want to keep side dishes indoors or cover them to deter yellow jackets. Also, be mindful of your drinks when outdoors. Yellow jackets are attracted to sweet drinks like soda, juice, and alcohol and love to climb inside for a quick sip. This can lead to unintended and potentially dangerous stings to your mouth or face.

The CDC also has recommendations[2]:

  • Wear light-colored, smooth-finished clothing
  • Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos and deodorants
  • Don’t wear cologne or perfume
  • Avoid bananas and banana-scented toiletries
  • Wear clean clothing and bathe daily, sweat may anger bees
  • Wear clothing to cover as much of the body as possible
  • Avoid flowering plants when possible

If you or someone you know has had a severe reaction to yellow jackets, Venom Immunotherapy (VIT) may be a proactive treatment option. Click here to Find a VIT Provider in your area.


[1] Yellowjackets. (2007, August). Connecticut State The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from

[2] Insects and Scorpions Bees, Wasps and Hornets. (2018, May 31). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from