DIY Yellow Jacket Bottle Trap

Picture of 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!

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Step 1: What You Need

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.  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 are 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

Picture of 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.
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tkjtkj2 days ago

Don't tread on thESE!

(Actually, the advice is to prevent the gooey chocolate from messing-up your floor ...)

Brownsong11 months ago
Just got stung 12 times mowing over a new found ground nest in my front yard. Once the stinger shock wears off I'm following your instructions and declaring war. Thanks!!!

Try dabbing some liquid household bleach on any bee-sting ...

assuming of course, you've no allergy to it ... Let us know how well it works for you ..(I'm NOT suggesting you go out and find the nearest nest !!! ;)

thebeatonpath (author)  Brownsong11 months ago
I am so sorry to hear that! Those buggers are aggressive and their stings really hurt, too! On the bright side, you now know where the nest is and have a resource to help get rid of them! Your nest was probably set up in the fall by a new queen leaving another nest to establish her own. Let me know how it goes and make multiple bottles if you can.
Deep Asleep24 days ago
thebeatonpath (author)  Deep Asleep22 days ago
That I am. ;)
lbrudd made it!1 month ago

Nothing yet

thebeatonpath (author)  lbrudd1 month ago
What did you use as your "bait"? Red wine worked for us better than anything else, but I've heard of people using sugar water or soda. Those and white wine did not work well on our hive. Also, it has to be near the hive.
mariatelk5 months ago

Great idea for the soda bottles. I've been using my canning jars, but now I'll just save my plastic 2 liter pop bottles. After I can my apples, peaches, etc. I save the leftover syrup and freeze it in ice cube trays. During the yellow jacket season I thaw out a few cubes and place them in the jars. Works great! You're right on the dish soap, haven't tried it yet, but will this spring. Clogs their little pores... Disposal problems? Grab those traps (covered with something) and place them in the freezer. After a couple of hours they can be safely be flushed down the toilet. Back to Mother Nature!

You can barely see them, but you can hear them, I can only imagine how many wasps!
It's great that it doesn't attract bees :)
Mudslide5449 months ago
Could any type of sugared beverage work for this?
thebeatonpath (author)  Mudslide5449 months ago
I thought sugar water/soda would work just as well, but it didn't which was weird. I have seen them make a beeline (pardon the pun) for soda cans outdoors and know someone who got stung on the lip because one ended up in his can. If you don't have wine, try soda. For some reason, they preferred red wine over white, so maybe try Coke/Pepsi over Sprite/7-Up.
egor1021 year ago
When I was a kid and feeling bullet proof I used a garden hose to knock down nests from the rafters and trees. The wasps eventually left because they couldn't find thier fallen next so I collected it and had my own discovery channel adventure exploring the nest. The biggest I did this too was 8 inches and got me stung once in the process but it was summer and we had to make our own fun.:)
thebeatonpath (author)  egor10211 months ago
I remember my dad coming home from a hunting trip with a huge one from a tree. I loved looking at that thing (no bugs present, of course).
fallen nest is what I meant to say lol
Nasty friends got there
thebeatonpath (author)  nickolaiisoe1 year ago
Nasty indeed. Hoping they found another yard to invade this year.
RangerJ1 year ago
Very good instructable. I plan to file it for next summer. Thanks
annschmech1 year ago
I also found a great source of information, when I'm completely stumped, is my local county extension office. They live for questions like bug id and plant id. I would also guess that if there's any university in the area, there's an entomologist who might be helpful. I've almost always found the academic sort to be helpful.
taria1 year ago
I know this is old. like a year old, but I have a few questions. I haven't seen the underground wasp (thank god) but I do have those one that like to build the hives near windows and inside my wooden wind chimes you go to move them and out pop a few bees chasing you (always the best part). I personally hate bee's and they might sense that I hate them that's why they come at me. But can I use this as well for catching those little buggers and keep them way from my front door. I'm scared that they are going to sting my pup since she loves to chase things that fly (watch out for the butterfly's). They are the big black ones and sometimes they have red one them. (one chased me and I bashed my head cause I tripped and hit the sidewalk trying to get away from it..I know I'm a pansy, I hate bee's) I'm just tiered of having to make a run for the door, quickly open it and rush inside before they get in. Also my mother has bees that look like honey bee's, but I don't think they are because they are attracted to her porch, and they are always attracted to the dogs urine that's there. (Yes my mothers dogs are to lazy to go a foot further to the grass. yelping little dogs) even if we clean it, which is every other day, they are still there, usually in a group of 10 or so. She says to not worry about them but when your walking up to the house and trying to get in, there they are in your face..seriously, it's annoying. (Like I said I think they sense my fear) if they are honey bee's I don't I will be buying local honey anymore :) but would this work for them as well? if they aren't honey bee's that is.

Would cooking wine work? I don't drink wine, but I cook with the cooking sherry wine, (Its red that all I know) so would that work? and the dish soap, does it have to be a certain one or would any type work?

anyway, thanks for reading my sappy but true story of me hating bee's...I guess the time I got stung on the butt still lives in my brain...yay for butt stings!
thebeatonpath (author)  taria1 year ago
I feel your pain! I would think cooking wine or sherry would work since it is smells similar to the wine. Any dish soap will do. Just a few drops. Without a photo, I'm not sure if your mom's problems are honey bees. Doesn't sound like typical honey bee behavior, but I'm no expert. You can do an internet search to try to identify the culprit. There are SO MANY different bees and wasps, plus I don't know where you live to help. Yours sound like red wasps (equally nasty buggers), but they sound pretty aggressive. Could you get a photo from the safety of the indoors? I would love to see what you are up against and help with a solution if this one does not work. Butt stings stink, but these stung me in the back of the head and stung my 9 year old, hence when the war began. The queen is still in a jar of alcohol on the window sill just to remind me that we won this round! haha
I would have to wait til summer time cause that's when they are out. right now it's t cold. I live in Illinois. The ones that go into my wind chimes are really small one that look like wasps but are tannish in color. does that make sense? and the ones that are at my mothers house are shaped like honey bee's the oval type shape and are about maybe a half an inch long?

to be honest with you I don't like standing that close to them to get a photo. I might have to set up my camera in video mode to get a shot of them.
taria taria1 year ago
not a year old..sorry, my brain is soooooooo gone right now, this is what happens when you have a cold. you loose all sense of knowledge.
emp_cyttie1 year ago
THIS IS SO AWESOME!!!!!!! I'm searching for an opportunity to use this but know it's autumn, so I'm looking forward to using this next year!!! Thank you so much!
thebeatonpath (author)  emp_cyttie1 year ago
THANKS! Let's hope you never have to!
I had yellow jackets--lots of them-- build a nest in the wall of the entryway to my house. The nest was behind a framed out opening. Having been stung more than once, I was afraid to enter the house there and worried that the mailman would get stung. I tried spraying but they were pretty inaccessible in the wall. So I tried this method, and caught a few dozen the first day. I noticed that they were coming in at a particular spot, so I taped the trap just below that spot. Then I taped around the opening of the nest to the top of the cut bottle so that they were funneled into the bottle--they had no other place to go. I checked the first evening and the bottle was so filled with yellow jacket bodies that there was no room for more. The bottle was filled up to the opening. I got a bigger bottle and that filled with bodies also. I found another entrance to the nest and did the same to that. I kept the traps up for about 2 weeks in case the queen and pupa were still alive. Now I have no more problem. I caught 500-1000, I would guess. I've recommended this method to lots of friends.
thebeatonpath (author)  paulhschulman1 year ago
That is AMAZING! Great job!
Hi, I have seen a very elegent blown glass version in Sweden but very expensive. This very cool, my only Question is will it kill honey bees? That would be a huge negative for me
thebeatonpath (author)  karl w becker1 year ago
No honey bees were attracted to this. I've heard they don't like vinegar, so wine is similar. We love honey bees, so I would never try to catch them.
Dookster1 year ago
I used to do this as a child. You have to be carefull with this because wasps are really affected by alcohol in the wine and they get knocked out. but they can wake up again with a realy bad temper if they didn't drown. better make sure they're all really dead
Let's see- your hung over,wet and sitting in a pile of your dead brethern. Yah I would be pissed!
thebeatonpath (author)  Dookster1 year ago
Thanks for the advice! We left them in the bottles for a couple days with no movement, plus the critters starting eating them as snacks. There are still a few hanging on, but I'm hoping the fresh trap I put right in front of their hive last night will do the trick today. I see them flying around it right now. The only one I brought in was the queen and she is in a jar very much dead.
Nicely done. I have never run into any ground wasps like that... just the paper wasps. I've lived in New jersey, Louisiana, and now Texas. Where was this?
thebeatonpath (author)  askjerry1 year ago
Middle Tennessee
Then I guess I was just lucky!

After you got the queen did the problem dissipate or did you have to get the bug-spray and go all Medieval on them?
thebeatonpath (author)  askjerry1 year ago
The verdict is out. A couple folks don't believe it is the queen, but instead a different type of wasp or a drone (male). I'm still figuring that one out because now is the time that new queens and drones are produced for next year's hives. That is why they are so active right now. May have been there all summer and never bothered us before. By the time this is over, I should have my Masters! HAHA On the verge of going Medieval! I added the glass bowl trick last night which set them off in the dark! I went inside not realizing they could find a way UNDER the bowl and then we started hearing them hit our kitchen windows because we had the lights on. Freaked us out. Personally, I believe these vicious ladies know what I've done and they are ticked! "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" is right in this case!
Indeed, what you have there is a nasty bugger called a "bell hornet."  Their stings are every bit as nasty as they look. 

I'm particularly interested in the fact that no honey bees were killed.  I have a problem with hornets eating the bees that I keep and I wonder if the bees are just simply not attracted to the fermented smell of the wine.  I'll have to experiment. 

Your results are amazing.  Great 'ible!
thebeatonpath (author)  Javin0071 year ago
I believe the honey bees wouldn't be attracted to it because it is a lot like vinegar and they don't like that.
Actually after looking over some diagrams that is a female Yellow jacket. The workers are much smaller about half the size and each type has a unique color pattern on there abdomen that makes them easy to identify. if you note on the second female pattern it matches perfectly to what you've displayed here for the large one. I cannot clearly see the smaller ones but it's safe to assume they are workers. I'm not sure where you live but that looks like a western yellow jacket or a hybrid yellow jacket.
So they're angry drunks I assume?
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