I was out in the woodshed this morning splitting logs when I heard the faintest scritch, scritch sound coming from the walls. The woodshed has three sides, all made from cedar, and when I put my ear to the wall it sounded as if the noise was inside the boards. Curious, I set aside the splitting maul and went in search of the scritch, scritch.
What I found surprised me at first. The outside wall was inhabited by half a dozen yellowjackets that seemed to be licking the boards. They weren’t queens, but probably the first progeny of a new queen. At first I was confused until I remembered that yellowjackets chew wood into a pulpy material and use it to build their nest. The cedar—being unfinished—was a perfect material to chew into a paste. The sound was made by their mandibles ripping the wood fibers.
I decided to kill them—after all, either I kill them or they kill my bees. It took all of about 90 seconds to find my butterfly net but by then they were gone. Annoyed that I lost them, I went on a hunt. By circling the house a few times, I was able to net two queens under the eaves within about five minutes. At least I assume they were queens because it is early in the season and they were monster yellowjackets—about twice the size of the workers I had just seen.
This was a good catch as it may have saved me from having to deal with two voracious hives by fall. This is just a reminder to watch out for those ladies in yellow. What looks like just two or three annoying wasps today may be two or three thousand even more annoying wasps later in the year.
By the way, did I mention there is a fresh (as of yesterday) yellowjacket pheromone lure hanging three feet away from the shed? Believe me, they were totally unimpressed.