Bees or wasps in my compost bin

Asked June 22, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT

Hi, thank you for this service. I have an open top compost and have been layering it, but not mixing it (just started using it in late April). A couple of days ago, I noticed bees in it, but after researching on the web, now realize that they may be yellow jackets and they may have nested there, which would be dangerous (and would make my compost pile off-limits). Is there someone in our area you could recommend who could come look at them, diagnose what they are and if there's a nest, then help me get rid of them if they are yellow jackets? I was so excited to start composting and it's supposed to be the easiest thing in the world, so this possible hazard is a bit of a bummer. Is this always a risk with open top composting? Thanks so much.

Johnson County Iowa

1 Response

Hello:

Thank you for your message and for contacting Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Yellowjacket wasps and bumble bees will occasionally nest in compost bins. Yellowjacket wasps are only one-half inch long, hairless and shiny, and bright yellow with black markings. See http://bugguide.net/node/view/14083

Bumble bees are larger and very very fuzzy. http://bugguide.net/node/view/56797

Pest control and lawn care companies generally avoid attempting wasp and bee control, but you can call a few to find out for sure.

In-ground nests of both wasps and bumble bees can be controlled when necessary by introducing insecticide dust or powder into the nest opening at night. There is little risk of being stung when working around the nest at night. Insecticide dust works much better than sprays, though more than one treatment may be needed. http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/info/insects/bees/bumble-bee

Thanks.

Donald Lewis