Expensive square bales are a big investment you need to protect. So, when you discover you have a yellow jacket infestation, it's upsetting (to say the least). Losing hay is money down the drain.
But you can stop worrying because there's a natural way to get rid of those pests and save your hay, too!
How to Know You Have a Problem
Yellow jackets love hay. It's a safe, warm, secure place to build a nest. And they're most active during the day. So, if you see them coming and going from your hay, you'll know you have a problem. And with a closer look (but not too close!), you'll see they've made themselves a home.
When square bales are stacked closely together, it makes a great yellow jacket home. They burrow into the hay, making a "nest" that's safe and secure. When you see lots of traffic, it’s a sure sign of infestation. And if you don't get rid of them, you could lose more hay as they multiply. That stings the pocketbook ... not to mention the risk being stung by these pests. Ouch!
But, can you drive the bees away without ruining your hay? As a matter of fact, yes. There's an easy answer.
How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets Without Ruining Your Hay
Pesticides are an obvious solution when it comes to controlling bees. But if you use pesticides, you'll ruin your hay. It won't be fit for consumption anymore. That's like throwing money away! You need a better alternative.
So, what's the answer? Dry ice!
Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. At an extreme temperature of -109.3º F (or 78.5 C), it can change from a solid to a gas in 24 hours (a process called sublimation). In addition to flying pests, dry ice is used for control of gophers and fire ants as well. And since it's natural, it won't harm your hay or your horses. And what's more, it's inexpensive!
Where to Find Dry Ice
Since it has to be stored in special containers to prevent sublimation, dry ice isn't as widely available as regular ice. Sold by the pound, it can be purchased in pellets or blocks. While the blocks are somewhat cheaper, they have to be broken into smaller pieces while wearing heavy, protective gloves.
However, even though pellets are easier to handle, dry ice blocks are better for yellow jacket elimination, because they can quickly and easily be stuffed into holes (in this case, a burrow). And since you'll have to work fast, they're a better choice. With pellets, you may need to continue pouring until the burrow is full. And who wants to be around a bunch of mad yellow jackets any longer than they have to?
Once your ice has been purchased, you'll need to prepare to protect yourself. If possible, borrow a beekeeping outfit from a friend for extra protection. If one isn't available, this is what you'll need:
- Heavy, thick overalls or a long-sleeved shirt and thick, heavy pants
- Heavy-duty gloves, such as leather
- A helmet and face mask or a thick winter hat with full-face coverage
- Heavy scarf to wrap around your neck
- Heavy boots and socks
- A heavy/thick jacket
- Duct tape
- A lantern and/or flashlight
- A hammer
- Old towels
You'll need to dress so that all areas of your skin are completely covered.
Once dressed, ask a friend to duct tape any areas that a yellow jacket could enter, such as the openings between your gloves and jacket sleeves and between the boots and pant legs. Work until you've taped close any area that can be accessed.
Okay. Now you're ready to get rid of those suckers!
- Wait until dark.
- Suit up properly.
- Using the lantern and/or flashlight, determine where the main entrance is to the nest. It's possible there's more than one.
- Using your hammer, break the dry ice into smaller sections.
- Quickly stuff the pieces of ice into the holes.
- Stuff the holes with old towels and retreat as quickly as possible.
- Don't disturb the holes/hay for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, observe the hay for yellow jacket traffic. You may see one or two bees trying to enter if they weren't in the hole when you treated it. Although yellow jackets aren't as active at night, they can be out after dark. In this case, give it one or two days to see if the yellow jackets return. Once they realize they can no longer enter, they should leave in search of a new home.
- If you still notice yellow jacket activity, try repeating the process.
- Remove the towels and observe the hay for 24 more hours.
Removing the Infested Bales
Once you're confident that the yellow jackets are gone, it's time to remove the affected bales. In most cases, the burrow will be between two bales. Grab the two bales and gently pull them away. You should see the destroyed nest and yellow jackets. Discard these bales if necessary; if possible, pull away the affected area until the hay is clean.
How to Prevent Infestation
Now that you've gotten rid of the bees, don't invite them back! To prevent future infestations, the key is how you stack your hay. Leave 2 to 3 inches between bales. Although this method takes up more space, it can prevent future infestation and loss of hay. It might be worth losing a little hay real estate.
If the above procedure works for you, spread the word. You'll be helping to save hay, and money. That's a perfect combination ... especially when you have horses.
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