DIY Yellow Jacket Trap
Take the Sting Out of Lunch Crashers
Reading Time: 3 minutes
By Julia Hollister – Imagine it’s noontime on the farm and your family is ready to enjoy a great lunch outside. The plates are full and the view is postcard gorgeous. But, oh no! They are back!
Not those pesky neighbors, but a swarm of hungry yellow jackets ready to feast on your feast.
What to do?
There is an easy, albeit fascinating, DIY way to end these unwanted visitors without use of repellants and swatters.
But first, here are some interesting facts about those ferocious members of the wasp group from an expert and the owner of Yellow Jacket Expert Firm in Connecticut.
“Most of my experience as a boy was throwing rocks at nests and running for dear life,” said Norman Patterson. “I am not an entomologist, but my field experience has given me practical knowledge of these creatures that many entomologists do not have. I suppose, in the end, I begin this field of study because I earned good money during the summer. I read once, the key to life is to get paid to do what you love to do.”
As a boy, he had several honey bee hives. At the back of the popular Bee Magazine, was an ad to collect insects for medical labs. The idea caught fire and he started collecting stinging insects, especially yellow jackets.
“I have been collecting stinging insects for medical labs for more than 20 years,” he said. “Labs use them for sting allergy patients. The orders for different insect venom varies from year to year. Because of this and my experience of removing them from people’s property without pesticides, poisons, and chemicals, has benefitted my unique business.”
Yellow jackets are common throughout the United States, and there are different varieties in different parts of the country. Patterson admits all stings hurt and yellow jackets more because they do not lose their stinger after they sting, so they can continue to wreak pain over and over.
After a sting, San Francisco registered nurse, Otto Curonado, prescribes an icepack to get rid of surface venom and to apply Neosporin. If the patient is allergic to stings, an immediate trip to the emergency room is necessary.
Although yellow jackets usually get a bad rap, Patterson said they supply some benefit to agriculture.
“They do minimal pollinating and eating of protein,” he said. “That means they eat flies, bugs, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and that sort of thing. They even eat each other. They can also do damage to different types of fruits and vegetables. Later in the fall when many other insects are declining, yellow jackets love sweets, meats, and fish. They seem to have a good sense of smell and can find what you are eating pretty easily.”
Patterson advises organic soapy water using something like Dr. Bronner’s soap that will kill them just as effectively as those nasty toxic sprays. Planting mint or other pungent plants will be a deterrent.
This DIY trap, mentioned earlier, is another alternative.
DIY Yellow Jacket Trap
One milk carton (1/2 gallon)
2 thin wood (stirring) sticks
1 small piece of raw bacon
Cut off top of carton, spout removed, fill with water.
Crisscross sticks over opening, tie string in the middle.
Tie bacon at the end of the string and dangle it about 1” above the water.
Hungry yellow jackets are drawn to the enticing smell of bacon and soon the swarm is feasting.
But, gluttony is fatal. One-by-one, the yellow jackets fall, dropping into the water to drown.
Hungry yellow jackets are drawn to the enticing smell of bacon
and soon the swarm is feasting. But gluttony is fatal. After feasting on the fatty bacon, they are so fat they are unable to fly. One by one, the yellow jackets fall, dropping into the water to drown.
When the carton is full, empty the contents into your garden for organic fertilizer.
“The only time yellow jackets bother humans is when they are protecting their home,” Patterson said. “People often accidentally stumble on an active nest, especially in July, August, and September. At the end of the year, each nest reproduces by hatching brand new queens. These queens mate and hibernate. In the spring, these queens come out of hibernation and each individual queen makes a new nest. As more workers hatch, they help her and eventually take over getting food and building the nest, only to make new queens at the end of the season.
“The circle of life continues.”
Originally published in Countryside July/August 2020 and regularly vetted for accuracy.