By Daniel Laucher
Yellowjackets are a nuisance around the garden and home, and can be caught in a variety of traps using baits that bees and other wasps are not attracted to. They are scavengers that seek out any food source, including your garbage and your pets’ food. Yellowjackets are aggressive and will sting repeatedly if they or their nests are disturbed.
Yellowjackets nest in holes in the ground, unlike most other wasps, which build hanging nests made from chewed wood fibers. These paper wasps, such as the bald-faced hornet and the European paper wasp, will defend their nests if threatened, but they are not otherwise aggressive. You may find paper wasp nests hanging in trees or bushes, or in the rafters or on the sides of your home. They should be left undisturbed, if possible, since paper wasps are pollinators and also prey on undesirable garden insects.
Honeybees and bumblebees feed on pollen and nectar, and will therefore avoid yellowjacket traps. Many commercially available yellowjacket traps use heptyl butyrate as bait, which bees are not attracted to. It is safe and effective to use such traps around your home and garden.
Homemade traps will also work to control yellowjackets. To make one, mix some dish soap into a bowl of water and place the bowl in the problem area. Tie a small piece of meat or fish to a short piece of string, then tie the string to a stick. Place the stick in the ground by the bowl so that the meat hangs about half an inch above the water. Yellowjackets fly very erratically; when they touch the soapy water, they will sink and drown.
Yellowjackets nest in the ground. Locating and destroying nests will help keep their numbers down. However, they will forage up to 1,000 feet from their nests, so the yellowjackets in your garden may have come from somewhere else entirely.
Prevention is important in controlling the yellowjacket population around your home. As scavengers, they are attracted to garbage, standing water, and will even eat honey and larvae from beehives. Make sure your trash cans are covered and tip out any standing water you find around your home or garden to limit their possible food sources. Place traps around your patio, grill, mulch pile, hummingbird feeders and anywhere else you observe yellowjackets foraging for food.
Get rid of those pesky yellowjackets early with prevention and traps, and keep those honeybees humming. Happy gardening!
Originally published on August 2nd, 2016. Updated on March 3rd, 2023.