Homemade Yellow Jacket Trap

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If yellow jacket wasps are causing you concern – it may be past time to learn how to make a yellow jacket trap. These insects have a role to play in the ecosystem. But, they are often unwanted guests at outside family gatherings. They can be a problem for beekeepers too. Many homeowners have success in managing yellow jacket numbers by making a simple wasp trap. This allows you to reduce the number of nests without the use of chemicals or poisons.

Numerous dead yellow jacket wasps in homemade traps.

Even though they are related, yellow jackets and honey bees are very different. Wasps can cause problems in the apiary. In some regions, beekeepers often use homemade yellow jacket traps and baits to lower the population.

Trapping Yellow Jackets & Other Wasps

From commercial insect killers to the old reliable fly swats – nothing is ruled out in the war against aggressive stinging insects. The buzzing and random flying patterns of Yellow Jacket wasps causes people to scatter. And, I will admit to being one of those people on occasion.

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 so it is normal to see more at this time.

Wasps – Not Bees

Yellow Jackets are not bees – though they are closely related. And technically, the name is spelled as one word – “yellowjackets”. But in modern culture, spelling it as two words is so common that I give in to the temptation.

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, it releases a pheromone (bees have pheromones too) that calls others to the area.

Unlike honey honey bees sting for defense, and each bee only stings once. Yellow Jackets have smooth stingers and can sting many times. One wasp is bad enough, four or five is a mess and dozens ! Let’s not even think about it.

Dead yellow jacket wasps floating in a trap image.

Materials Needed

Strategically placed traps may reduce the wasp population in your backyard. There are many ways to construct a homemade wasp trap for yellow jackets. This is a simple one that you can modify to fit the materials you may already have on hand.

  • container – plastic bottle
  • bait – recipe
  • water

Container

DIY Yellow Jacket Traps come in many different styles – this one is made from an empty 2-litre soda bottle. It is a great lesson in recycling and getting good use out of an empty bottle.

Milk jugs with a small hole punched in the side near the top are another popular container for a diy wasp trap. The idea is that the insect enters a small opening. They, it confused by the light and cannot find the exit.

Ingredients for Bait

The recipes used for wasp trap bait varies from one location to the next. You may need to experiment a bit to find the right kind of bait for your area.

The goal is to have bait that doesn’t smell too bad – for your sake. Also, do not use bait for your wasp trap that will attract beneficial bees and nonaggressive pollinators.

Water

A small amount of water in the base of the trap helps drown any captured insects. Some folks add soap to it but you don’t have to. How much water you need – if any – depends a bit on the container you choose.

Assembling the Trap

Main steps in making a diy yellow jacket wasp trap from a plastic bottle.

1. Choose your container. If using a plastic soda bottle – cut off the top about 1/3 of the way down. Discard the cap – you don’t need it.

2. Mix up your wasp bait. In this case, the bait I am using is liquid – so I just mix it together.

3. Place or pour the bait into the bottom half of the container you are using. You need several inches of liquid – at least 3-4″.

4. Secure the top portion of the bottle (with the neck down) into the bottom half containing the bait. Now, you are ready to use your trap. You will not have a tight seal – that’s okay.

Yellow Jacket Trap Bait Recipes

Vinegar is a common ingredient in wasp bait. This recipe uses vinegar, sugar water and banana to attract yellow jacket wasps, bald-face hornets and other types of wasps. It is not as attractive to honey bees – which is my main reason for using it. 

You can use other types of bait for your homemade wasp traps. I hear reports of success with traps that are baited with meat scraps (hamburger meat), hot dogs, cat food or even bits of fish. 

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 for you – of that I am sure!

Cautions for Wasp Bait Recipes

Some folks swear by using a little beer in their wasp bait or fruit juice (non-citrus juice – such as apple juice). But, these solutions are sweet.

Whichever, yellow jacket bait solution you use in your quest for the perfect lure – keep a close eye on the trap for the first few days to ensure that you are capturing the target insects only.

Expert Tips

You should see few if any honey bees in your trap. Don’t make the bait sweeter as the added sugar may cause more beneficial bees to take an interest.

Placement is another area that may require some testing. Experiment with placing your trap at different heights – from 4 feet off the ground (on a good tree limb) to a higher level and see which works best for you.

Check the wasp trap weekly and remove any drowned wasps. Refreshing the lure mixture will also help keep the trap functioning.

When Is a Yellow Jacket Trap Most Effective?

If you can get those homemade wasp traps out in late Spring/early Summer. You many catch early queen wasps and prevent some nests.

This is why we don’t see large Yellow Jacket nests until the population builds later in the season. These wasps build paper nests in the ground and their colonies seem to appear overnight. In reality, the nesting sites have been steadily growing all season.

A Yellow Jacket colony does not over-winter as a family-only the queen wasp hibernates during Winter. In Spring, she emerges and begins a new nest and family. This is also true for Carpenter Bees and Bumble Bees.

Yellow Jackets near the entrance of an underground nest image.

Will My Yellow Jacket Trap Work?

All traps work sometimes, none work exactly the same in every location. You will have to experiment a bit to find which bait works best for your area.

But – yes, a wasp trap can catch Yellow Jackets and other stinging insects. The number you capture depends a great deal on where you live and the number of nests nearby.

If you are lucky enough to have few local nests, the effectiveness of the trap will be less. Also, the available food sources that grow and diminish throughout the season can affect how well your trap works.

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Other Options

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

A reusable yellow jacket trap usually comes with lure and possible refills. They often hold up for several seasons of use and use pheromones to lure insects inside.

Disposable products are also available. Please don’t use the cute ones that use rich sugar water as bait and kill honey bees.

FAQs

What is the best bait for yellow jacket trapping?

This varies greatly from one location to another. One popular recipes uses sugar water, banana and a small amount of vinegar. Another recipes uses beer, water and fruit punch.

What time of day are yellow jackets most active?

Yellow jacket activity seems to hit a peak between 10 am and 4 pm but they do forage in cooler temperatures than honey bees.

Do yellow jackets bother beehives?

These wasps will prey on honey bee colonies given the chance. They will eat baby bees inside the beehive and steal honey. Large wasps populations can be a major threat.
The first step to protecting your bees is the reduce the size of the hive entrance. This helps your bees defend their home.

How do you get rid of yellow jackets if you can’t find the nest?

Trapping is the easiest way to reduce the number of yellow jacket wasps in your backyard when you can’t destroy the nest.

Final Thoughts

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

Yellow Jackets, hornets and other Wasps may be considered pests. But, they feast on many undesirable insects too -an excess of spiders, flies and worms that destroy crops.

These useful members of the ecosystem are 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.

How to Make a Yellow Jacket Wasp Trap

Charlotte Anderson @ Carolina Honeybees, LLC
Step by step instructions to make a yellow jacket wasp trap using a plastic soda bottle and homemade bait recipe. This will help reduce the number of wasps in your backyard.
4.20 from 20 votes

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Read my Disclosure.

Tools

  • scissors

Supplies
 

  • 1 2 litre plastic soda bottle (any tall bottle)
  • 1 banana peel
  • 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

Instructions
 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Recipe for wasp bait: 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.
    Some folks add a few drop of dish soap to break up the surface tension of the water and help drown the wasps.
    Do not use just sugar water (or honey!) – that will result in dead honey bees instead of wasps.
    Vinegar, banana and sugar ingredients to make a wasp trap bait image.
  • 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.
  • Invert the top cut part of the bottle and place it upside down into the larger section.
    This forms a funnel with the hole near the middle of the larger bottom piece. The shape of the neck of the bottle (now upside down) confuses the wasps and helps prevent escape.
    Using top half of bottle to create a funnel image.
  • 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. Attach it to a fence post or hang it from a tree limb.
    In a few days, the scent of the bait should attract hungry wasps and they will drown in the soapy solution.
    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.
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