Can You Flood a Yellow Jacket Nest?

Yellow jackets and wasps can be quite the problem if a nest ends up on your property, and immediate action needs to be taken to protect you and your family. But it can be difficult to figure out what the safest and most effective way to kill yellow jackets is. 

Yellow jacket nests are often in the ground. They burrow down and create large tunnels, and as the nest is finished, the workers rainproof it to protect the nest from moisture. Can water from a hose poured down a yellow jacket hole actually kill yellow jackets and wasps? 

Can Yellow Jackets Drown

Yellow jacket colonies are most commonly found in burrows underground and holes in shrubs and brush. You can also find their nests attached to roof eves and attic ceilings. If you can keep a wasp submerged underwater for more than 5 minutes, you can drown a yellow jacket. 

It is, however, difficult and not entirely safe to try and drown yellow jackets. Spraying water on a nest can result in yellow jacket attacks. Painful yellow jacket stings can leave swelling and redness all over the injection site. If you are allergic or they are aggressive wasps, like hornets, you can be seriously injured if care isn’t taken. 

What Happens When You Flood a Yellow Jacket Nest

When you flood a yellow jacket’s nest, several things happen that result in the destruction of the nest. As the nest fills with water, the insects will attempt to dig and burrow their way out from underground. Too little water added to the hole or a slow flow rate can end up not killing the insects at all. 

The yellow jackets that can escape will try to sting and attack you. Their stings are much more painful than honeybees or paper wasps. If you are able to seal the hole and fill it with water quickly, you can effectively kill all the wasps and prevent the nest from ever being used again. 

After everything has been flooded, you can remove the nest or fill in the holes to prevent more infestations. Wasps are unlikely to occupy or rebuild damaged and flooded nests. The queen wasps prefer to build new nests instead. 

How to Drown a Nest of Yellow Jackets

Drowning yellow jackets is not easy, and care must be taken to do it effectively and safely. The exact method of killing wasps with water depends on the size of the nest and the location of the insects. You also need to take into account the time of day and the time of year to do this safely and to avoid being stung and attacked by the entire colony. 

Regardless of the location of the nest, you should only attempt to flood a yellow jacket’s nest at night. Once the sun has gone down, all of the wasps will have returned home, and they will be less active. Yellow jackets do not sleep, but if you are able to get them in the dark, it will save you some stings as they are less likely to swarm in the dark. 

In the spring, nests are newly built, and only the queen and a score of soldiers are home. If you drown the wasps early, they will never have the chance to cause problems. However, with little activity and small nests, it is unlikely you will discover a wasps nest until later in the summer. 

Likewise, in late autumn, you can proceed to flood the nest. The wasps are dying and will not be active in the cold weather. Never flood a nest in midsummer, as this is when yellow jackets are the most populous and active. If you try to flood the nest in the summer, you may be attacked by many wasps at once.

Always wear face and skin protection when attempting to remove a yellow jacket’s nest. If uncomfortable, do not hesitate to call a pest control company. 

In the Ground

If the nest is in the ground, this is how you can safely drown yellow jackets. 

  1. Get a long hose, and while turned off, put the end into the yellow jacket’s hole.
  2. Cover the hole and weigh down the hose with a large rock or brick.
  3. Turn on the spigot and let the water run until it sprays out of the hole.
  4. Turn off the water and let sit overnight. 
  5. Fill in holes to prevent new wasp nests. 

Attached to Ceiling

This may require a professional pest control company as it takes accuracy and skill, but a bucket can be used to drown a nest on the ceiling or on a tree limb.

  1. Fill a 5 Gallon bucket (or bigger than the nest) with water. 
  2. Find a support that will hold the full bucket flush against the ceiling for at least 24 hours. I’ve used a 4×4 cut almost the exact height and pressed up to the bottom of the bucket, and then slid smaller pieces of wood underneath until it locked tightly. 
  3. Push the bucket over the nest and lock the support underneath. 
  4. Remove the bucket and entire nest after a day or two. 

Ways to Make Water More Effective Against Yellow Jackets

Wasp Yellow Jacket Nest Attached to Ceiling

While water may be the most ecologically friendly method of destroying yellow jacket nests, it isn’t always the most effective. The cool thing about water is that you can add things to it to make it more deadly for wasps and other insects. 

Type of WaterBenefitEffect on Yellow Jackets
Soapy waterCoats wasp wingsThey cannot fly
Hot waterPenetrates nests fasterwasps go dormant and don’t sting
Boiling waterKills wasps on contactPrevents early wasps from escaping to sting
Liquid boric acidKills on contactKills faster than drowning

Soapy Water 

When dish soap is added to the water, it creates glue when it contacts a wasp’s wings. As the soap drys, the wings will become stuck together. This solution can be used on wasps in holes as well as airborne insects to stop their flight. 

Hot Water

Using hot water to submerge a nest can cause the material it is constructed of to deteriorate quickly. Once a wasp’s nest is no longer able to support the colony, the yellow jackets will stop defending it and focus on moving the queen to safety. 

Boiling Water

Pouring boiling water into a wasp’s hole can kill them very quickly. However, if it is not enough water to drown them, many will escape the initial downpour. Boiling water also damages other animals and plants near the wasp’s nests. 

Liquid Boric Acid

Creating a solution with water and boric acid is a great way to make a plant and animal-safe insecticide. Once the borax dissolves into the water, it can be sprayed into holes, onto nests, or directly on flying yellow jackets. Because this solution does not harm plants, it is a great way to kill wasps in the garden and destroy nests near your vegetables.