Do yellowjackets nest in trees?
Attached are pictures of a bush by my front walk. Yellowjackets are always flying around it and landing on its branches. The tree is quite dense and we cannot see into the trunk, and don't want to move the branches too much. Could a nest be in there, or are they just eating the sap on the branches? If it's a nest, what do we do? I want it cut down, as it is too large for the space. When would it be safe to do so?
Howard County Maryland
There is some encouraging news: The colony will die at the first freeze. Only the queen will survive and she will fly to another location to establish a new colony next spring. The current nest will not be re-used. Our recommendation is to continue avoiding any activity that would disturb the nest. It is possible that the nest is in the ground, but it is also true that at least one species of yellowjacket will build an aerial nest in a shrub. These yellowjackets are not as aggressive as ground-nesting species.
Having said that, if you can simply wait for a few more weeks, you will be able to safely trim the bush. If you find an aerial nest, it could provide some additional interest. Some people actually collect wasp and hornet nests and carefully bisect them, displaying the intricate chambers inside.
If you would rather dispose of the insects now, you should hire an exterminator who has the appropriate protective gear and equipment to deal with them.