a yellow jacket
Photo: Fritz Rauschenbach/Veer
To discourage ground-nesting yellow jackets, try flooding their holes in the evening, when they're inactive.
Q: What can I do to get rid of the yellow jackets living in the ground around my house?
Ken McGarry, Chicago

A: Roger Cook replies: There are many kinds of wasps and bees that nest underground. Most are beneficial, not aggressive, and valuable as pollinators. But if you are sure that you have yellow jackets, the following strategies might get rid of them.

First, try flooding them with water in the evening, after they've returned to the nest. It may take several attempts over a period of days to drown them or encourage them to move elsewhere. Or you could try covering each hole with plastic—again, in the early evening—and seal it against the ground with bricks or blocks for a few days.

If that doesn't cook them or discourage them, you'll probably have to use an insecticide. There are many formulations of these chemicals, including some poison-free products such as mint oil. Availability varies from region to region, but you should find what you need at a garden center or home supply store.
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