DIY Yellow Jacket Bottle Trap




Introduction: DIY Yellow Jacket Bottle Trap

About: I love to learn new things, create and build cool stuff and tend to think outside of the box. I like to think of myself as a Jill of All Trades or a Renaissance Woman if such titles exist. ; )

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. 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.



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460 Discussions

When I first moved to my farm I tried co-existing with them. I ignored them and they ignored me. Then the hive grew past critical mass and they became violently aggressive. Note: my behavior didn't change, theirs did. I was told that's commonly what happens when a hive gets big... the more of them there are, the more 'personal space' they need. I know where some hives are that I leave alone, but I'm vigilant about keeping them cleared from the barn and house area. The guilty hive was ID'd by a pest control guy as a type of invasive wasp, and they build paper nests. Still yellow, still hover/dive bomb me and mine, still attracted to sweet things in the early part of the year, and meat in the late summer/early fall (at that point, I switch my bait to cat food.) I have both the nest-building wasps and the ground bees - both are aggressive and sting repeatedly until you slap them to death. Very painful - baking soda/water paste relieves the pain quickly.

Why don't I eradicate the hives that aren't in my personal space? Because they are an effective predator of larval things, and I have an apple orchard. Growing apples is a constant battle against various beetles and their larvae; the yellow jackets are another weapon against them. Of course, they're indiscriminate - they eat butterfly caterpillars too, and that makes me sad.

I trap and kill them because they are robbing my honey bee hives .

An evil necessity, They will rob the hive them honeybees won't have enough to make it through the winter

I do set out sugar water a couple hundred feet away from the hive but put traps close by them

wait till you run over their nest they make in the ground with a lawnmower
plus in the fall when they know they are just food for the queen they sting people just because they can.
They are not native to the US.

I'm a beekeeper and wasps are hovering around my hives picking off my sweet honeybees left and right. They are very aggressive and would rob my hives if they get half a chance. That would mean the end of my bees.

It absolutely breaks my heart when I hear stories like this, and see videos of *anything* attacking Honey Bees, as they are so sweet and pretty defenseless. I saw a show on TV about how their nests are being decimated by those F'ing (sorry, but gah!) Killer Bees! Watching them dive in and snap the heads off the little Honey Bees brought tears to my eyes, and made me sick to my stomach... and the rate they multiply is terrifying!! Are you going to try these traps? Have you found anything that is working against them to save your little bees?? :*( :*( :*(

When standing outdoors it doesn't matter if a person smells of body odour, deodourant, coffee, perfume, feet, someone else's feet or even the biblical gift of Frankencence a wasp will still choose you over all things available to fly within inches of and it will do so near your head, neck or torso. It will continue to do this even if you try to move away from it.

If I was known to be aggressive, to sting without provocation and continuously got up in people's faces I would expect to be killed. Wasps, or YJ's as they are known in the US, clearly have not evolved to recognise humans as animals that do not like to be antagonised.

That and one stung me on the testicle when I was 11.

I am allergic to their sting. Almost killed me as a child.

Because they were attacking my kids and myself UNPROVOKED. My teenager is still traumatized because of them and freaks out anytime a flying insect gets near him now. If the yellow jackets had not been near the house, I would not have had a problem with them, but they were aggressively coming after us every time we went outside.

I'm in an ongoing war with yellow jackets - which - if you live in their preferred territory - seems to be the only possibility. What I've been told is that most varieties prefer sweet stuff/pollen early in the year (red wine, yummy!) but are drawn to meat (or insects, larvae) later in the season. The insect is walled up in the nest, alive but paralyzed, to be eaten by the yellow jacket hatchlings. Some lay eggs directly in the insect. This explains their popular name, "meat bees," and their intrusion in outdoor grilling sessions.

I just found a new bunch of them this spring near my entrance and with nests I can't easily eradicate (in the eves and saw one actually entering a tiny hole in my threshold!) So - online I went, to find one of the bait traps I've seen, and found you! Thanks for posting this one!

(As for the one I saw entering the threshold, it was probably a fatal mistake. I was on the porch spraying my mowing clothes with permethrin (ticks!) so sprayed the hole until it was damp. Oops... I don't think she'll like that! I'm hoping her next trip out of her nest will be the last.. and hoping any buddies using that same entrance will meet the same fate.)

Were is the best place to hang wasp and hornet traps if nest area is unknown? I want to keep nests from around my house. They build on house and trees nearby

Awesome information! Thank you for the instructions and the interesting facts! Looking forward to your next post!


1 year ago

Wow! You have enough yellow jackets to be seriously dangerous. I had ivy like that and the wasps got in there as well. I was stung on two separate occasions and my husband killed them. Then, the next year, we discovered a new nest after my son ran over it with the lawn mower! Luckily he didn't get stung because it could have been BAD, but of course, I was stung. This time it was war. My crazy husband, with a bottle of spray and a shovel, completely dug it up. That was last year but I'm afraid they are back again. I'm going to try to trap because right now they are invading my hummingbird feeders.

It looks wonderful! I can see having an empty bottle and knife in the picnic basket so that one can be set up anywhere. Does it have to be wine? What about coke? It would seem sweet enough to attract them.

Thanks for sharing.

6 replies

You would want to be careful about what bait you use, pop might attract honey bees or other helpful/endangered insects. I would imagine 2-buck-chuck from Trader Joes would work just fine and target mostly/only yellow jackets.

That was my concern. I would like to get rid of the Warps but I am VERY concerned about Bees
dying. There is a serious ecological tragedy heading our way with the
shrinking population of bees. It doesn't look like this device can

Neighborhood honey bees are not at risk like commercially raised honeybees. They do not like yellow jacks/wasps so they tend to stay away from them.

Lay out a piece of watermelon and watch how the wasps go for it but not the honey bees.

Yellowjackets are omnivores, it seems. They are happy with the sweet stuff when available, but will dine on bees in late summer when the nectar flow is scant. The bees appear to know this. Currently, in May, there's plenty for everyone, and my bees and some yellowjackets gather peacefully together at the water bowl. Later, in August/September, jackets will be sniping at my bees, picking off stragglers around the hive, occasionally attacking the hive en mass. Curiously, when in bee-attack mode they are seemingly and fatally disinterested in the beekeeper, who enjoys standing out by the hive on late summer evenings swatting the critters with a narrow roll of newspaper.

if you put a few drops of vinegar that would act as a repellent for bees but it still attracts wasps.