Kayak and Yellow Jackets

Hi everyone,

I recently bought a bright green sit-on kayak. I’ve taken it out to a small lake in our town and to a swamp/creek in the area. When paddling at the creek, I’ve had numerous yellow jackets come to my kayak and fly around it and sit on it. I’ve paddled at this creek twice now and both times I’ve kayaked here I’ve had yellow jackets come to my kayak (I had 3 jackets on it at one time twice now). My boyfriend has gone out at the same time with me in his kayak but his kayak is tan and brown and he hasn’t had any issues with them. From what I’ve read they seem to be attracted to bright colors.

I want to continue to be able to explore and kayak the creek but I would really like to find a way to keep the yellow jackets away. Has anyone else had issues with yellow jackets or wasps while kayaking? If so, what do you do to keep them away?


last time I had one chasing me out over the water I rolled and stayed over for an extra moment. Between that and a very splashy upward finish the bee went on to another paddler. (Who also rolled.)

But that won’t work for you. What color is your PFD? We always found they liked yellow best, I am wonder if it could be your life jacket they like.

They’re also attracted to
suntan lotion, some perfumes, sugar in fruits, soda cans and candy.

I paddle a bright yellow kayak and alternate between a yellow and a coral/turquoise PFD, but have had no issues with stinging insects (although dragonflies like my boat) even though I regularly see them buzzing around.

Grin and bear it?

– Last Updated: Jun-04-16 9:59 PM EST –

I know it's not what you want to hear, but they aren't interested in doing you harm. I find that when yellow jackets hang around me on account of some colored object that they like, that after a few minutes of checking to see if there's anything edible, and finding nothing, they move on. That doesn't mean others won't show up in the meantime. It also doesn't mean that I like them, and I generally swat at them as they fly near me (I almost always miss on account of their rapid back-and-forth style of hovering, which, incidentally, is their way of homing-in on whatever scents they might be interested in), but they don't worry me either. The species wouldn't still be here on Earth if individuals out on forays were in the habit of picking fights for no better reason than because they can.

I'll take yellow jackets over deer flies any day! The yellow jackets are merely curious, while the deer flies are after my blood.

Seriously, if they are landing on your kayak and staying there, you could resort to using a fly swatter! Then you can take satisfaction in eliminating individuals of this non-native species (they are almost certainly the German variety) one at a time!

Hi Celia,

Thanks for the reply! My PDF if grey with a small amount of green, nothing bright. They seem to just want to chill on my kayak with me (too bad I don’t want to hang out with them). I’m not wanting to get stung out on the creek and then be a way out in case I have a reaction. I tried a peppermint and mint spray mixture I made after reading about it online and sprayed that on my kayak with no success.

They’re beneficials.
They also have stingers:

“Concern about yellowjackets is based on their persistent, pugnacious behavior around food sources and their aggressive defense of their colony. Usually stinging behavior is encountered at nesting sites, but sometimes scavenging yellowjackets will sting if someone tries to swat them away from a potential food source. When scavenging at picnics or other outdoor meals, wasps will crawl into soda cans and can sting your lips or the inside of your mouth or throat.”


I can attest to their defense of their colony, having been stung multiple times when I slammed the door shut to a shed attached to my garage and didn’t notice a large nest that had been built under the eaves of the outside wall to that shed. (&%! stinging nasties followed me into my house as I sprinted inside.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, so I waited until dark to take mine.

Stinging by individuals out on patrol

– Last Updated: Jun-04-16 11:34 PM EST –

You can get stung when swatting at individuals, but it's really rare. If they don't manage to sting you at the exact moment of impact (and that can happen - I've been stung by them just that quickly), it isn't going to happen at all. There's no one for them to defend at that moment except themselves, and once they have the opportunity to fly off, that's what they'll do (flying away is a better means of staying alive than stinging).

I'm really leery of them around their nest sites though. Disturbing them "at home" can have terrible consequences, though it's never happened to me personally.

green kayaks
I most often paddle green kayaks, one of which is bright lime, but have never noticed bees or wasps being drawn to them (though one kayak so often attracts mating pairs of dragonflies that some of my paddling buddies nicknamed it “the Love Boat”.) I can think of one possible reason they might be investigating your boat. Do you ever store it outdoors under trees? We had trouble with insects pestering us in a canoe a few times that my boyfriend stored outdoors in the shade of a tree – we finally figured out that some kind of sap was collecting on it (could have been aphid droppings or something else sweet). After we scrubbed it off and started covering it with a tarp we no longer got “buzzed.”

Stop wearing that nice smelling perfume
Jack L

If you don’t get aggressive towards them, it is likely they will leave you alone.

You’ve received some good feedback regarding sweet smelling products, and colors that attract them.

Fruit & soft drinks, and candy will also attract them too. Had a friend who had one get inside a can of soft drink, and ended up getting stung on the lip. What you do about those things is up to you.

If you are seriously concerned about getting stung, and having a reaction; carry a good supply of Benadryl with you on paddling trips. Also consider getting your doctor to give you a prescription for an EPI pen, and carry it with you on trips.


Thanks everyone
As for where we store our kayaks, we store both of them in a screened in patio. There are a few trees around the patio but they still seem to only like my kayak and not my boyfriend’s.

When we hit the creek I don’t wear any perfume though I’m sure I still have a faint scent from deodorant and body wash. The first time on the creek I sprayed bug spray on myself since the mosquitoes here love me and the second time I had kids sunscreen. Two different scents but had yellow jackets both times. There’s no candy/soda in my kayak, just a water bottle and a sealed snack in the dry bag.

I know yellow jackets are beneficial to the environment and I don’t want to kill them, I just don’t want them around me. I’m not trying to jump in the creek with alligators to avoid some yellow jackets every 1/2 mile into the trip.

I did carry some Benadryl in my dry bag during our last trip there and the suggestion to visit the doctor to ask for an EpiPen is smart, thank you.

If it’s feasible, switch kayaks with your boyfriend for a trip. If they start pestering the boyfriend, it sounds like it’s the kayak. If they still pester you, then you know it’s you.

Good for the environment or not:
If one landed on my kayak it would be dead as soon as I could swat it!

Then it would make some fish a tasty tid bit, and that would be good for the environment

Jack L


Bees seem to like yellow
I used to have bike jerseys with yellow portions. Bees only landed on the yellow areas. They were attracted to my yellow kayak.

Yellowjackets also flock to MEAT. Do not eat or cook meat near yellowjackets. They would actually land on the meat inside a sandwich. One of them hid so well that when I bit into the sandwich, it stung my lip. YEOW.

So far, I haven’t had a problem with yellow jackets out on the water, but once in awhile I find honey bees floating around in the water. If they are still alive, I will scoop them up with my paddle and deposit them on the front hatch comver. They will almost always rest for a little while and then fly off. I’ve had up to around six passengers at a time. The fish can find something else to eat.

Just in case
Bees are good. Yellow jackets, not so much.


Bees good; wasps and hornets bad
I thought I read or heard that yellowjackets are wasps.

Honeybees and bumblebees are fine. I can weed or lounge around in thickets where they are busy–very busy–working working working. They do not seem interested in going after me when there is soooo much work to do.

But I put the bullseye on yellowjackets, wasps, and the incredibly aggressive baldfaced hornets. They get even meaner from eating fallen plums that have fermented. Nasty things.

I have
I have run from yellow jacket nests in the woods, and killed their nests on my property. But I draw the line there. They’re just being yellow jackets, after all.

I thought it was my cycling helmet!