Introduction: DIY Yellow Jacket Bottle Trap
This is my first instructable, so any feedback is greatly appreciated! After discovering a yellow jacket ground nest near our front door a few days ago, I decided to look up ways to get rid of these mean insects without the pesticides. We have various wildlife and friendly insects in our yard, so I try to avoid pesticides. A quick Google search resulted in a few solutions to my problem and this is the one I chose. This method was super simple, pesticide free, eco safe and VERY effective. Friends and family were pretty amazed at the results as was I! So let's get started!
Step 1: What You Need
Here are the “tools” needed: wine (they prefer red to white), a clean water or soda bottle, a bread knife or scissors, and dishwashing liquid. First, cut off the top quarter or third of the bottle. Add about ½ “ of wine and about two drops of dishwashing liquid. Now flip that top over to make a funnel and place it snuggly back into bottle. You are done! See how easy that was?
Step 2: First Results - Hive #1
Here is the tricky (or fun depending on how you view it) part. Place traps as close to the yellow jackets’ nest as possible. Since they had built their nests (yes, I said nests, plural, but I will explain that later) in the ground, I simply placed the traps close to where I saw them flying. My first case scenario was near our front door close to a stick pile. I made a red wine trap. As you can see, they preferred the red wine. Next day, yellow jackets were gone and floating inside the traps……or so we thought. About four days after first testing these with good results, a new family must have moved in and stung my little boy who was simply coming inside after school. Mama Bear mode kicked in! I found some old bug spray in the garage and planned an assault despite my NO pesticide clause, but they must have known what I had in mind because they scattered. Since we didn’t have red wine opened at the time, I used some old white wine that was about to be tossed and I quickly made two more traps. Again, next day, yellow jackets drowned!
Step 3: Hive #2
The following day, I was walking from the mailbox and as luck would have it, found ANOTHER ground nest next to our driveway, right in the path of my kids coming home from school! I quickly grabbed the previous three traps, made a new one with red wine, and off I went carefully placing the traps. As soon as I walked inside, we looked out to see a SWARM of these evil buggers all around the traps! I grabbed a camera, zoomed in and took a video from a safe distance (or so I thought). One zoomed past and stung me in the back of the head! He even rode on top of my hair and made his second appearance in my kitchen where he was quickly eliminated.
Step 4: Final Results
Five hours later with a quick rain storm thrown in there, we noticed there were no flying yellow jackets. Upon closer inspection, we discovered filled traps! I noticed a few strays flying out of the nest, so I made a fifth trap. If my first four traps are any indication, I believe our yellow jacket problem has been solved, at least for today.
A few things to consider: try to use bottles with small openings to prevent escape; when you safely can, clean out the traps and refill when needed. If you leave too many dead ones in there, they might crawl over their dead and find a way out. I had much better luck with red wine as opposed to white (see photo of traps that were side-by-side and see which one was fuller!).
I hope you have success with this eco safe, pesticide free yellow jacket trap!
Step 5: Follow Up - Night Recon
Two days into this, we discovered that most of the traps had been knocked over or dragged away, probably by raccoons in the night. Since there were a few stray yellow jackets flying around today (yes, one even went for my hair again!), I decided to do a night recon. A few of the traps were opened and cleaned out, but the ones they weren’t able to open were full. I left one bottle’s contents on the driveway because ants and spiders were having a feast, but in another bottle I commented to my husband that I had caught a huge wasp. On closer inspection, we discovered it was the queen! We both now believe that there is no way that all of these yellow jackets were drowning since the dead were 2+ inches deep in the bottles and there is only ½” of wine/detergent solution, so we are guessing that the solution somehow kills them. No honey bees were killed in the making or implementation of this Instructable.
Step 6: Species Identification Debate & Fun Facts Learned
Since I first posted this, there has been much debate as to whether or not I correctly identified the large one as being a yellow jacket queen. I have tried to answer all comments, but thought I would just add this step. I pulled the deceased out of the jar for closer photos which I have included. The discoloration is due to stewing in red wine (notice drops on white paper were coming from her body - she is quite preserved!), plus you can see her stinger. I am also including photos and charts I have gathered from all over the internet. I hope this helps give you a better view and size specification that I didn't provide before and then you can draw your own conclusion. Keep in mind I am in Middle Tennesse, USA, when you make your own assessments. Here is a link from Bug Guide. They are a great resource in identifying any crazy bug you may run across. http://bugguide.net/node/view/9256 I think the markings on mine are exactly like this one, but I'm no bug expert.
Here are some fun facts I have recently learned thanks to the many bug websites and comments on this Instructable. Bug experts, please correct me if you find any of these to be incorrect.
- There are several yellow jacket species in the US and around the world.
- Yellow jackets never come back to a hive once the season is over. Once it has been used, it is never used again, so there is no reason to destroy it if it is not bothering you.
- Yellow jackets are more active at the end of August/beginning of September due to decrease in food supply and preparing new queens and drones for next year's hives.
- New queens are the only ones that survive at the end of the season and hibernate through the winter in dead leaves, logs, homes, etc. Come spring, she builds a nest, sometimes in abandoned dens, and starts laying eggs of female workers. Once enough workers are grown, they start doing all the work so she can lay more eggs.
- Drones are the only males and are from unfertilized eggs.
- Drones do not have stingers.
- Females can bite and sting, though you can probably tell the difference.
- Many people had success in eliminating a hive with 1/2 cup of gasoline squirted in the nest at dusk or night. One even used liquid CO2 and froze them.
- Only approach nest very early in the morning or at dusk when they have returned. Only go at night if you know EXACTLY where the hive's opening is.
- NEVER shine a flashlight at the hive opening at night. It will only bring the defenders out.
- If you do disturb the hive at night, turn off the flashlight or toss it on the ground. They will go for the light, not you....but still run to safety like your life depends on it!
- The glass bowl trick may confuse most of them, but they can still dig new holes and find a way out. Maybe not all of them, but some of them.
- Wine and vinegar do not attract honey bees, but do attract yellow jackets. They also enjoy sweet smells, Meat also attracts yellow jackets who are carnivores (who knew?!).
- Honey bee venom and yellow jacket venom contain different properties. Do a search. It is an interesting read.
- "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Multiply that by a thousand of these females and you have yourself a yellow jacket hive! They are vicious, resourceful, fascinating, but once they put me or mine in danger, all bets are off.
Step 7: Raccoon Finished Off Hive
Nine days after I discovered the hive, a raccoon decided to dig in! The glass bowl was simply pushed aside. The light colored area is the hive paper walls and inner cells. I would have gotten closer (was inside car), but a few were still hanging around.
Step 8: Fall Update & Discovery
Saturday, November 30, 2014: Was in the yard working on a fire pit and discovered two queens in separate areas that were burrowed in the ground waiting for spring so they could fly out and make their own nests. Needless to say, I was not overjoyed. One is currently in a jar next to me very angry that I woke her up from her beauty sleep and the other one wouldn't die even after I chopped her in half! I usually leave nature alone, but after reading this Instructable, I hope you understand why I didn't leave these two alone.