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DIY 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.

Make Your Own Yellow Jacket Trap

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.

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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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