DIY Yellow Jacket Trap

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Make Your Own Yellow Jacket Trap

While they serve an important role in the ecosystem, Yellow Jacket Wasps would never win a public popularity award. These yellow and black stinging wasps are insect predators. While it is not a good idea to seek out and destroy them all, there is no harm in trying to reduce their numbers. For those of us who are beekeepers, controlling the number of wasps near the hives can be important as they also eat bees. One way to combat the attack is to learn how to make a Yellow Jacket Trap.

Dead yellow jacket wasps floating in a trap image.

Yellow Jackets are Wasps – Not Bees

Yellow Jackets are one type of bee that few people love, right? Not exactly! Despite what most people believe, Yellow Jackets are actually not bees.

They belong to the wasp family – a cousin of the bee family. Fast moving, sleek meat eaters, yellow jackets are very common at late season picnics.

Late Summer is the time of year when colony size is at its peak. Their buzzing and random flying patterns cause people to scatter.  

There are many strategies for dealing with these pesky wasps. From insect killer spray to the old reliable fly swats – and yes – even yellow jacket wasp traps – nothing is ruled out in this war.

While it may seem like a good idea at the time, swatting at Yellow Jacket Wasps is an exercise in futility. If you are lucky enough to kill one, a pheromone will be released that calls others to the area.

Unlike honey bees, who only sting once,  Yellow Jackets have smooth stingers and can sting many times.

One wasp is bad enough, four or five is a nightmare and dozens ! Let’s not even think about it.

Homemade yellow jacket trap image.

Why Beekeepers Dislike Yellow Jackets

Yellow Jackets will enjoy a taste of sweet honey (or your can of Coca Cola). However, they are primarily meat eaters.

These wasps will prey on honey bee colonies when given the chance. They will eat brood (developing baby bees) inside the beehive and steal honey.

Beekeepers often see wasp predators near the entrance of hives. Here, Yellow Jackets may attack adult bees at the front of a hive – even though guard bees try to fight them off.

Generally, a few of these wasps are not a major danger to the honey bee hive. However, that is not always the case. This is one honey bee pest that we can work to eliminate from the bee yard.

A large number of Yellow Jackets can pose a serious threat to weak bee colonies. The wasps may kill increasing numbers of guard bees making the honey bee colony even weaker.

When Is a Yellow Jacket Trap Most Effective?

Like many Wasps, the Yellow Jacket colony does not over-winter. A mated female “Queen” Wasp hibernates during Winter under leaves bark or other debris.

In the Spring, she emerges and begins her nest. Raising only as many young as she can tend until the colony grows larger. This is why we don’t see large Yellow Jacket nests until later in the season.

For beekeepers, a group of Yellow Jackets buzzing around during bee hive inspections is a distraction. This gets worse as we move into the Fall season.

So, let’s get those wasp traps out in late Spring/early Summer. We want to catch those early queen wasps and prevent some of the nest growth.

Will My Yellow Jacket Trap Work?

In most cases, yes, a wasp trap can catch Yellow Jacket Wasps. The number of wasps you capture depends a great deal on where you live.

Those of you with a large population of wasps nearby will catch more than someone lucky enough to have few area wasps.

Also, the available food sources that wax and wane throughout the season can affect how well your trap works.

Reducing the number of wasp nests in the general area has some benefits. The number of wasps at your picnic or attacking your bee colonies should be fewer.

You can make your own Yellow Jacket Wasp Trap from common items you may have at home. While there are many different styles of traps – this one is made from an empty soda bottle.

How To Make A Yellow Jacket Wasp Trap

Materials Needed:

  • a tall plastic bottle (2 litre soda?)
  • 1 banana peel
  • 1 cup of vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water

Time needed: 30 minutes.

Step by step instructions to make a yellow jacket trap using a plastic bottle.

  1. Secure a 2 Liter Plastic Bottle

    You need a plastic bottle. An empty 2 liter soda bottle is ideal. If that is not available, any plastic bottle of the correct shape will do. (I like a clear bottle so I can see the little suckers in there.)

    Clear plastic soda bottle image.

  2. Cutting Bottle

    Carefully cut the top 1/3 of the bottle off. You now have 2 parts. If you had the small plastic lid, you can throw that away – you don’t need it.

    Plastic bottle cut into 2 parts to construct a yellow jacket wasp trap image.

  3. Make the Wasp Lure Recipe

    Gather your ingredients: 1 cup of vinegar, ½ cup of sugar, 1 cup of water and 1 banana peel. Now let me say that you may experiment with other combinations to see which one works better in your area. Do not use just sugar water – that will result in dead honey bees instead of wasps.

    Vinegar, banana and sugar ingredients to make a wasp trap bait image.

  4. Mix Liquid Bait Ingredients

    Mix the liquid ingredients of your wasp trap bait in the bottom half of the bottle. Stir well to dissolve the sugar as best you can. Then add the banana peel.

    Mixing sugar and vinegar in plastic bottle half image.

  5. Place Inverted Bottle Top

    Invert the top cut portion of the bottle into the larger section. This forms a funnel with the hole near the middle of the larger bottom piece.

    Using top half of bottle to create a funnel image.

  6. Setting Up Yellow Jacket Wasp Trap

    Set trap outside in a location that is protected from rain. You can use string, cord or part of a wire clothes hanger to create a handle if you wish.

    Sometimes the trap will catch Yellow Jackets or hornets in a short period of time. And, sometimes it may not seem to work at all.

    Success catching yellow jacket wasps and hornet with trap image.

Yellow Jacket Trap Bait Recipes

This vinegar, sugar water and banana mixture will attract yellow jacket wasps.  It is not as attractive to honey bees.  You should see few if any honey bees in your trap.  Don’t make it sweeter as the added sugar may cause more honey bees to take an interest.

You can use other types of bait for your wasp traps. I hear reports of success with yellow jacket traps that are baited with meat. 

Hmm…  If you choose to do that – I would certainly hang it far, far away.  A few days in the sun and heat will not result in a nice smell – of that I am sure!

If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own trap, you may decide to try one of the commercial ones.

Final Thoughts on Trapping Yellow Jacket Wasps

Yellow Jacket Wasps are predators that feast on many undesirable insects. They are useful members of the ecosystem and certainly not our enemies.

However, due to the aggressive nature of these wasps it is a good idea to reduce the number of colonies in areas close to human activity.

Using traps throughout the Summer to capture and kill Wasp Queens may result in fewer nests next year.

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34 Comments

  1. I’m not a new-bee but thanks for the recipe !! This trap works well—I put baked apple juice in them and it worked well—1 or2 honeybees.. Always glad to learn something new—Thanks.
    Tom Roth

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, experiment with the bait recipe – who knows what will work. You just never know.

  3. Corrie DiStefano says:

    Hello, is there a specific height to place the traps? Thank you.

  4. Some people say over 12 feet. But my traps are only about 7 feet off the ground. I think all heights can be successful.

  5. would the trap attract more bees

  6. Hello. Does the vinegar have to be apple cider vinegar, or will plain vinegar work?
    Thanks.

  7. I’ve never heard of anyone using white vinegar so I would go for the apple cider one. Doesnt have to be expensive though, you can find a cheap store brand.

  8. What can I use if I have no babana peels. Can jelly work instead of jam?

  9. I am trying to protect monarch butterfly caterpillars. Do I place the trap by the milkweed plants or up above or by the wasp nests?

  10. I’ve use teriyaki sauce that I’ve soaked chicken in for 2-3 days before BBQing. This small chicken fragments and fat combined with the sweetness of the teriyaki sauce draws them in. One trap caught 75-100 yellow jackets in a day.

  11. Thanks will try the bananas. Will also try other baits as the ingredients are cheap and plentiful.
    We recently have wasps under the vertical wooden siding where it meets some stone masonry siding. My husband sprayed, no success. So he caulked the edge with black foaming spray. Mistake. Even if you do use caulk, I read that you should use silicone caulk. But probably shouldn’t caulk while wasps are in your walls! We could hear the wasps chewing through the caulk. So per a youtube video, my husband set up our shop vac with the extra wands/tubes, whatever they’re called. In the evening when it was cool and no wasps flying, he bungee corded the wand to an a frame ladder so that the end was a couple inches from some of the holes. We used the crevice attachment so that it really sucked! He has also attached the vac wand to a push broom so that he could lean the broom up against the house. Use your imagination so that the vacuum tube end is by the hole. Then turn on in the daytime when you see wasps. We got hundreds when they were coming out of the siding and hundreds when they would fly from somewhere else heading to the holes. they go right in. Sometimes when we were moving the tube wasps would fly over to the end and go right in. (don’t where bright clothes) The youtube video showed putting water in the vac. We didn’t. I think the wasps get beaten up so badly by the suction and hitting the sides of the vac, they are killed. You can try with just one wasp and see for yourself what it does, so you don’t have to worry that they are still alive in the vac. This is a lot less messy than the water in the bottom. Anyway, still a few hangers on and wasps in the ground so going to make lots of little traps.
    Thank you so much for raising and taking care of bees!

  12. Karen Hagedorn says:

    I must have really smart yellow jackets, after 8 hours, only one fly, nothing else. I did exactly what you said to do.

  13. Everything doesnt work for everyone everywhere. Mine work most years and some times of the summer the wasps dont seem to care about them. A friend that lives in the next state catches them by the hundreds.

  14. The beginning of the article says they are meat eaters, yet there is no meat in this recipe. I’ve tried the banana, vinegar, etc recipe and caught nothing. Should I use meat with these other ingredients or what? I at a loss!

  15. They are meat eaters but they love sweet things to. Ever had a yellow jacket buzzing around your soda can at a picnic. I wouldnt add meat but maybe play around the the amounts of the ingredients.

  16. Kenneth Lindahl says:

    I used a old yellow jacket trap that had bin hanging in a tree for a year. cut a slit in it

    and add dog food and in 30 min. it had about 25 of the little buggers in it.

  17. Randy Collins says:

    Hello Charlotte,
    I am involved in a book project on the Mint Family of Plants: Lamiacea. I am wondering about all the bees I see in my garden around my Salvia ‘Indigo Spires” plants. I have thought they were yellow jackets, but after reading your website I am wondering if they are honey bees.
    They seem to be drawn to many of my blue/purple blooming plants. I am hoping to write a chapter on the relationship of pollinators in the mint and herb garden and how we can encourage them. Any thoughts.
    Randy Collins
    Aiken, SC

  18. How wonderful Randy. You are most likely seeing honey bees. My bees love the mint and salvia in my garden. They are especially fond of my Black Adder Hyssop. Yellow jackets and other wasps do like sweet things like nectar. But they are primarily meat eaters. Honey bees really enjoy many of the herbal plants. Thanks for letting bees enjoy your garden.

  19. I have two reusable yellow jacket traps outside my house. They both have the attractant that came with the trap, but the instructions say to also put some additional bait in it. It recommended meat or, in late summer, sweet carbs.

    In one, I put a teaspoon of jam; in the other, I put a small piece of Italian sausage. There’s really no comparison between my two traps — sausage is a MUCH better yellow jacket bait than jam.

    I didn’t think about bees when setting out my traps, but it seems to me that using meat for bait not only keeps bees safe by not attracting them, but really REALLY attracts the yellow jackets.

  20. I agree that was a concern for me as well. It seems that the vinegar in most recipes makes it less attractive to bees. I have rarely caught a honey bee in mine. However, I am very cautious about putting anything too sweet in there. Sounds like you found a great recipe that works for you. Congratulations.

  21. Next I’m going to try the Italian sausage with a bit of sweet BBQ sauce. I think the more picnic-y I can make the trap, the more effective it will be. Just a theory.

  22. I agree it is odd Karen. Some years I caught alot using the recipe and the next year it is not as successful.

  23. Jay Hunter says:

    Do you know from how far away the traps will attract the wasps?
    What is a good distance from the hive to set up a wasp trap?

  24. Well, I’m not sure how far away they will attract a wasp from. I have seen beekeepers that had them very close but I chose to put my traps about 12-15 feet away. They just need to be in the general area.

  25. If you locate the hive, you’ll see the yellow jackets tend to fly in one direction when they leave and fly back from the same direction. Placing the trap along that path will give you the best results. If you can raise it to the height of their flight path the results can be staggering!

  26. I have them and they are around the hives and bee yard. I will not trap them. They are not after my bees nor are they trying to enter the hive. They are after the ants that are on the ground around the bee hive or ants that are on the hive. They are hunting ant for last 2years.

  27. It is true that they serve a useful purpose. Sometimes they can be a problem but it sounds like they are doing some good work for you.

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