Yellowjacket traps

Above is an aerial yellowjacket nest, and below is my favorite kind of yellowjacket trap. The plastic part can be saved and reused year-to-year, and the lure inside can be purchased anew at the beginning of wasp season.

They are safe for the environment because the lure is not a poison or insecticide–it is just a compound that mimics a pheromone that yellowjackets are attracted to. Once inside the one-way trap, the yellowjackets cannot find their way back out. They eventually die of dehydration.

Yellowjackets trapped.

The lures last about ten weeks and attract twelve different species of yellowjacket (Vespula). The pheromone is quite genus-specific; in several years of using the traps I have never seen a bee end up in one.

I usually hang the traps in the trees away from the bee hives about mid-August or whenever I notice the yellowjacket population increasing. The ten-week lure takes me into mid- or late October and by that time the first freeze has occurred. A good freeze takes care of any remaining yellowjacket adults, so you are then free of them until the next fall.

Since I began using the traps I haven’t lost any hives to yellowjackets. The year before I bought the traps I lost three hives to yellowjackets, one here and two at an out-apiary . . . and it was a gruesome sight. Since then, I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of trapping the wretched little bee-eating monsters.

I have yet to find a good use for a live yellowjacket, so dead works for me.


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  • I’ll have to get one of those if the wasps get bad. I haven’t seen many yellow jackets this year (so far). I’ve noticed a few black & white wasps hanging around, but no major trouble around the hive entrances yet. All of my hives seem strong enough to defends themselves anyway. Very pleased with that.

    I noticed some dragonflies hanging around the hives last week. I assumed they were chowing down on a few bees. They swooped down right over the hives like Spitfires. They weren’t around for long though.

  • Put out yellow jacket traps!!!!

    Yesterday I was propping up apple tree branches and stepped on a yellow jacket hive. Never saw it. Must have stomped it pretty well. Ended up with (best count) 26 yellow jacket stings. They make honey bees feel like loving babies. Only stung by our two honey bee hives twice so far this year. One over achiever actually stung my finger through my bee gloves. Have to give her an A for effort. She was really working at digging her stinger in.

    Put out those yellow jacket traps!!! In the spring you may capture some yellow jacket queens. I got lazy this year and just recently put two traps out. Usually put them out in the spring. We started doing this before we got bees. They can be REALLY nasty.

    As an aside, we have had MANY more bumble bees this year than ever before. Hundreds of them working the flower garden. We have planted bee friendly flowers and herbs (in the flower and herb garden and elsewhere). With this wet spring, maybe that made a difference. Also lots of butterflies this year. The honey bees are working the mint hard right now. It grows around the trees we water with a sprinkler.

    One more honey harvest before we settle them in for the winter. We hope.

    Thanks for your rational blog.

  • Rraymond- I’m so excited to hear you talking about planting bee-friendly flowers! Native bees need all the help we can give them, and whatever you do for them is good for your honey bees too! I recently did a post on my blog about helping native pollinators that you might be interested in ( You might also like the Pollinator Partnership Regional Planting Guides- you give them your zip code, and they give you a free booklet with pollinator-friendly plants for your region! Check it out on their site here:

  • I bought a wasp trap today. I had to add apple juice and yellow jacket lure.

    It’s been hanging up for about an hour and already one bee is trapped inside.

    I think I picked the wrong wasp trap.

    Can you send me an email with a link to the one you’re using?

  • Hi Rusty,

    I’m not a yellowjacket expert by any means, but I’ve learned over the years that what works best for us is to get these traps up NOW! The first warm days of spring the queens come out of hibernation and are looking for a nesting site. You can tell the queens from the workers because just like honey bees the queens are almost twice their size. If you catch the queens now before they can establish their nest it greatly reduces the yellow jacket problem in August, September & October. We’ve found that if you wait until then to put the traps up you’re fighting a losing battle. In 2010 I caught 8 queens in our traps in spring and had very few yellow jackets that year. Last year we had a long, cool, wet spring and putting the traps up just slipped my mind. I didn’t get them up until June or July and we had more of an issue with them. There are also lots examples of homemade traps you can make from plastic milk jugs on the net. Right now they really want protein, so a small piece of meat works as an attractant. In late summer/early fall they want sugar (honey).


  • Hi,

    Just saw you post while looking for yellow jacket traps. We just started with bees this April, for our kiwi orchard. We had 2 hives, we got our first collection of wonderful honey and then . . . bam yellow jackets came and destroyed them. I set over a dozen of the store bought bag pheromone traps and it didn’t seem to phase them. We also had another 4 hives our beekeeper put at a different part of our property and 3 are gone. One is struggling to hang on.

    Am trying all the suggestions for traps I can but would love to try these. Where do you get them and the attractant?
    Here it is close to the end of October and I want to get as many as I can before they hibernate and start again in the spring.

    Frustrated in Aptos, CA

    • Andrea,

      I think these traps, manufactured by Rescue! are probably similar to your store-bought ones. I got them at Home Depot. You are pretty far south and I don’t know how warm it stays through the winter where you are. Normally, all the yellow jackets are killed with the first freeze in the fall, except for the queens. The queens overwinter by themselves and start building nests the following spring. So the best time to put out the traps is in the early spring. If you can catch the queens, you can greatly decrease the yellow jackets in your area. However, if it doesn’t freeze where you are, then the entire nest can overwinter and that is much harder to deal with.

      The important thing in the fall is to close down the hives except for one tiny opening or put robbing screens over the entrances. The honey bees can defend a small opening, but if the opening is fully open, the yellow jackets can easily over-run them. I used to have hives destroyed by yellow jackets too, but with trapping in spring and closing down the entrances in early fall, I haven’t lost any in a number of years.

      • Thanks for the reply. Found them on Amazon. Am definitely on a yellow jacket mission! Am keeping traps up until I don’t catch anymore and hopefully will catch some queens. Put out a few homemade ones today and they are filling up already. I had no idea they were this bad here. Will be diligent thru spring for sure. Our “kiwi honey” was so amazing it’s worth it. Wish me luck.


        • Andrea,

          The queens won’t be flying this time of year. After they get their nest going in the spring, they stay home and keep laying eggs. The next time yellowjacket queens will fly is next spring.

          Kiwi honey sounds great. I have a few hardy kiwi vines (the little grape-like type), not enough for honey, but the bees just love the flowers and it’s fun to watch.

  • Hi, Rusty – Hi, Andrea,

    If you can find the yellowjacket nest – by waiting till the warmest part of the day when you will see them going in and out of the ground in large numbers – mark it quickly with a stick a few inches away. Then at evening, make up about 2 gallons of boiling water, add 1 quarter cup of dish soap. Wait till most of the wasps are back underground – for your safety as well as to kill as many as possible – then pour in the hot soapy water.

    I would bet the nest is somewhere in your orchard. To find it, you might set out some spoiled meat, which they prefer over fruit, and then see which way they fly off after feeding.

    Another method I have used, for a nest that was in a pile of compost, was again to wait till late evening when all were “indoors” then lay a plastic sheet over the pile and rock it down securely. When the sun rose, they all got cooked and became fine compost.

    To Rusty – how can we get people to quit calling them “bees”?


    • Thanks Nancy,

      Have killed two nests already that I could locate, but we live in a valley surrounded by oak/redwood forests. I know they are not in our orchard as we rototill often. I have watched them fly off and they fly over to the other side of the valley.

      Am trapping aggressively thru the rest of fall and will trap like a son of a gun in spring! Now that I understand a bit more about their life cycle I can be more proactive :O) And of course, if I find a nest . . .they are history!


  • We have yellowjackets here in SW Idaho too. Hanging outside very much, having BBQ’s, etc., they have become my “show no mercy” enemies. I cannot tell you how many times I have fought with them, trying to protect my clean meat supply before I can get it on the grill … or even afterwards, when it comes off and is ready for human consumption. If you are into combat, an old racquet-ball racquet works better than a large spatula and can be entertaining while waiting for things to cook. The little buggers are aggressive, even more so as summer turns to fall. Before I quit drinking Dr. Pepper and the like, I had to keep the top covered to prevent getting a mouth sting on the next sip. They even go after a perfectly good dark ale, although wine seems fairly safe. They have a lot of gumption messing with my food, but mess with my hard-to-find favorite ale? No no!

    I have tried watching them to see where the nest might be, but have difficulty seeing where they went after they blend in with the background. Years ago, I was traversing a gentle hill on my tractor. It was a hot afternoon and noticed a finger-sized hole in the dry dirt that yellowjackets were using – BEFORE they noticed me (lucky for me). Without going into detail – just know that they did not survive and I had fun with fire. That was the only time I’ve been lucky enough to find the nest.

    We actively trap them in early spring, beginning at the first sighting of anything flying. We have trapped queens on several occasions (only early in the year), so I’m inclined to think that there may be more than one “local” nest site. Anyone have experience with this?

    Later in spring and summer, the traps’ pheromone-like lure is replenished regularly, as soon as activity seems to drop off (although my wife discovered she can stretch it a bit be adding a few drops of water to the lure-soaked cotton balls inside).

    Now, I have one more reason to dislike them… I wondered if they went after honey bees, so thanks for the great information from you and your readers’ comments. Does anyone know if black bald-faced hornets do similarly? Thanks again!

    • George,

      I’ve seen bald-faced hornets attack the honey bees in the air in front of the hive, wrestle them to the ground, and kill them right there. Then they take them away. Not fun to watch.

  • Hi Rusty, while I do not have honey bees, I do have plenty of yellowjackets in my garden and have found that nicotine tea and Dawn soap is deadly on them.

  • Hi all,

    I’ve found great info on here, thank you! I live in eastern Washington and also have large numbers of yellowjackets and try to trap the queens in spring. One of my friend’s heads was overrun with hidden hives we eventually found, but it was to the point we couple that even sit outside to enjoy the sun. The redneck way we got rid of a bunch was to take some deli meat or even a raw chicken leg, thigh, whatever, and we hung it from a tree with twine and underneath it, we put her dog’s kiddie pool filled with water. They will gorge themselves until they can’t fly. Within a half hour we had a minimum 50 drowned yellowjackets. If worse comes to worse this is a quick way to go.

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