Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - November 26, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Is a wasp colony in hollow in my oak tree harming it?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I have wasps colonizing a hollow portion of a live oak here in my backyard in Austin ten feet from my backdoor. They are yellow and black banded, maybe an inch long. Two questions: 1. Are they hurting the tree? This live oak is very large, perhaps 700 years old, and the hollow is in a structurally critical part of the trunk. 2. If I have to kill them, what can I use that won't hurt the tree?? Help, please.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants consulted a colleague who is an entomologist, and his guess is that you have yellow jackets (Vespula squamosa ). They are probably not harming the tree, but are using an existing cavity to build their nest.  The colony was established by a single queen, and could contain as many as 4,000 workers.  This link  on wasp control urges caution when trying to eliminate a colony because of the high numbers of wasps involved. Colder months is a better time for eradication because the wasps are less active. The insecticides used for eradication probably won’t harm the tree.

This link from TAMU  explains more about the yellow jackets,  and bugguide.net  has some interesting images.

Mr. Smarty Plants would probably leave the colony alone if the wasps were not being too aggressive.

 

More Trees Questions

Transplanting Trees in OH
May 10, 2012 - Is the middle of May too late to dig out Arborviteas and spruces to transplant? I live in central Ohio.
view the full question and answer

Heat tolerant arborvitae for Spring TX
September 20, 2012 - Is there an arborvitae that would be heat-tolerant to Spring, Texas (north of Houston) and amenable to neutral clay soil?
view the full question and answer

Acorns for craft project in Santa Rosa CA
October 05, 2009 - Where can I find mature northern red oaks, northern pin oaks in Santa Rosa, CA 95404 in order to get their cute chubby acorns for a craft project I'm doing?
view the full question and answer

Dirt around bald cypress in Lakeland FL
October 03, 2009 - Dirt around trunk of cypress.. Our tree is a Bald Cypress. We dug a hole to install a jacuzzi and put the dirt/clay around the trunk of the cypress to level the area out. I also laid several flag s...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for a replacement tree for Hackberry tree in Austin, TX in Austin TX.
May 25, 2013 - We have a large hackberry tree in our front yard. We are cutting it down this fall. I would like to replace it with a tree native to this area..preferably something fast growing. What are your reco...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.