The best method I’ve discovered for killing wasps is to go out and buy one of these wasp traps:
Add a dollop of some sweet jam, pour in some water sweetened with sugar and then hang or place the trap some place where wasps are known to congregate. I put the trap out this morning and when I came home from work, it was full of wasps — hundreds of them.
I’ll continue to monitor the trap over the next week or two. I’ll stop using it if too many honey bees get trapped in it. Judging only from the first day I had the trap out, I’d say there’s one honey bee for every 100 wasps that get trapped in it. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the latest results.
Wasps or yellow jackets will try to rob honey from the hives as fall approaches. It’s not uncommon to see honey bees battling with wasps at the entrances to the hives. The wasps, if numerous, can also be a major annoyance to beekeepers. That’s why wasp traps like this one can come in handy. A homemade version consisting of a cut up plastic bottle might work just as well, but I bought this wasp trap yesterday at Canadian Tire for $8.99 and it’s already paid for itself as far as I’m concerned. I’ll dump out the dead wasps before I go to bed tonight and put it out again with some fresh sugar water and jam tomorrow morning.
I saw a single honey bee trapped inside with the dead wasps. That’s acceptable collateral damage. I plan to keep this trap around and use it again next spring when the big fat queen wasps (or yellow jackets) are waking up from their winter slumber, looking to start up a new home. Here’s a quote from the instructions for the wasp trap: “Place the trap in early spring at first sight of yellow jackets or wasps to catch the fertile queen and prevent the formation of an entire nest.” I’m in love with this wasp trap. It’s the best nine dollars I’ve spent in a long time.
DAY 2 RESULTS: I noticed more honey bees going into the trap today. Their numbers are still small compared to the wasps getting trapped, but there are definitely more of them today. I’ll stop adding sweetened water to the trap. Perhaps just a dollop of jam will be enough.
DAY 7: I was concerned the wasp trap could catch too many honey bees. It doesn’t.
I noticed several honey bees attracted to the outside of the trap. A few got inside, but at the very most it may have been 10 dead honey bees to several hundred dead wasps over the period of a week. I have no problem with that. I had to empty the trap of dead wasps every day.
Dumping out the dead wasps was a little on the gross side. One batch I flushed down the toilet. Another I dumped on the ground and then covered with dirt. Another batch was left in the trap for a few days and stunk like rotted meat. Using a hose, I filled the trap with water to make sure all the wasps were dead before I opened it up to dump it. The best time to do that seems to be early in the morning or at night when it’s cold and the wasps aren’t active. I will most definitely set this trap up next spring as soon as I see queen wasps or yellow jackets flying around.
DAY 17: (October 9th) I’ve decided to pull the wasp trap because more honey bees are getting trapped than wasps, and most of the wasps are gone now anyway. Here’s what I found in the trap this morning:
That’s not a catastrophic number of dead bees, maybe 20 or so, but there are even fewer wasps caught in the trap when normally the trap is almost overflowing with dead wasps after one day (provided it’s a warm day). I would say the wasp trap has done it’s job.
So let’s recap: I filled the trap with sugar water and some raspberry jam on Day 1 (September 22nd) and caught about 100 or so wasps within 24 hours. Maybe two or three bees got trapped. I continued to clean out the trap and refill it with a glop of jam whenever I could. The trap would fill with wasps within 24 hours every time. The number of wasps flying around my yard was noticeably reduced. The cold nightly temperatures could have been killing them off, but I’d say the wasp trap accelerated the process. The honey bees, desperate for anything sweet at this time of year, are making their move for the raspberry jam now that there aren’t as many wasps descending on the trap and getting in their way. Losing twenty or so honey bees to the trap every day is a negligible loss, but catching more bees than wasps, even if it is negligible, doesn’t sit right with me. So I’m done with the wasps trap for the year. Well done wasp trap. I’ll set it up again next spring to kill off as many queen wasps and yellow as I can so they can’t establish as many colonies near by beeyard.
June 25th, 2016 (the following spring): Apparently catching the big fat queen wasps early in the spring can cut down on wasp problems later in the summer. And apparently the best way to catch a queen wasp is to put meat (e.g., wet cat food) in the trap because the wasps feed more off protein early in the year. I’ve had such a trap set up for the past two weeks, with plenty of queen wasps flying around, and I haven’t got a single wasp. I may go back to using raspberry jam, but I’ll make sure to add some vinegar to repel honey bees. I’ve also found five small wasp nests in the making around my house — in my shed, in my garage, under the eave of my roof. I’ve destroyed them all by spraying them and soaking them down with soapy water. I’ve also put up two of those fake wasp nests that supposedly deter other wasps from making nests nearby. We’ll see what happens…
July 23rd, 2016: The wasp traps I put out in June when the queen wasps were plentiful didn’t catch a single wasp. I used wet cat food as bait. Nothing. I used various types of vinegar. Nothing. I may have used jam and vinegar, but never a sweet bait on its own. Still, nothing. I eventually found two effective methods, though: 1) I squooshed the queen wasps with my boot. I have an old plywood shed in my yard, the plywood dry and grey with age. I found the wasps by hearing them first, hearing them chew on the dry wood, wood particles they use for building their nests. I tried smacking them with various objects around my yard, but quickly discovered that pulling my boot or shoe off and whacking the wasp worked best. I killed three or four wasps after work every day for about week using the old boot method. 2) I also made use a high pressure pesticide spray container (the kind you have to manually pump to build up the pressure). I filled it with soapy water and blasted several wasp nests that were just beginning to get built around my house. I think I destroyed at least five of them. I soaked a few wasps on the side of my shed too.
I expect to update this post again if the wasps make another appearance.
Other tactics for killing wasps later in the summer can be found at Yellowjacket Traps from Honey Bee Suite. It has some info on a trap that uses a lure that only attracts yellow jackets. No risk of catching honey bees.
September 25th, 2021: I’ve tried to catch queen wasps in the spring since 2015 and, for whatever reason, none of my trapping techniques work. I still flattened more fat spring queen wasps with a boot against grey weathered plywood which seems to attract them better than bait I’ve tried. My Strawberry Jam Wasp Trap video posted today shows how the basic wasp trap still works well in the fall. A strong healthy honey bee colony doesn’t seem to have much issue dealing with wasps. The wasps are a nuisance to the bees but don’t seem to cause much damage, if any. I still reduce the entrances on my nucs and on hives with weaker colonies or whenever robbing becomes an issue. But generally, in my local climate, I don’t worry too much about wasps. Most of the time the bees can handle them.
I just updated this post with some information on trapping queen wasps in the spring. Specifically, the trap doesn’t seem to work (so far) at catching queen wasps.