We beekeepers tend to think of yellowjackets and bald-faced hornets as fall predators. Since only the queens live through the winter, few of these wasps are seen in the early spring. Still, the process has begun. All by herself the queen begins to lay eggs and establish a brood nest. As the months pass by, the number of offspring multiplies quickly until the air is thick with dangly-legged carnivores. By fall they are attacking your weaker hives, eating adult bees, ravaging the brood, and consuming honey stores.
Wasps are aggressive and hard to control once they learn there’s a local restaurant with bee sushi on the menu. One of the best ways to reign in these creatures is to kill the queens in the spring as soon as you see them. There won’t be many—just one here, one there—but by killing the queens now you can avoid a lot of trouble later.
You can use pheromone traps if you like, but I find a butterfly net quick and easy. The queens are large, easy to see, and don’t fly all that fast. Just scoop them up and give them a squish. I know . . . it sounds cruel. But if you want to minimize cruel, get them before they dismember your bees.