Over at Reddit.com, a lot of hipsters are showing off their amazing yellow jacket traps–all of them brimming over with hundreds of dead wasps. We find that to be kind of heartbreaking. Yellow jackets and other wasps can be a real problem, of course. They’re dangerous if you stumble upon their nests. We don’t like them scavenging around our garbage cans, either. But wasps also chomp on all kinds of other pests. They can be a good friend to a garden. That’s why we need to find a way to reduce their ranks without wiping out the entire community.
You mainly use traps on yellow jackets. It’s not a good idea for other kinds of wasps. You can buy lure traps at just about any major retail store. The idea behind these is that you’re luring in the yellow jackets that actually go out and do all of the foraging for their nests. The chemical used as a lure in these traps is usually heptyl butyrate. That’s going to catch the western yellow jackets–who’s the most common kind.
You can add some raw chicken or fish (and canned tuna) to bring in some other types of yellow jackets who might be buzzing around the neighborhood. You just have to remember to change that stuff out pretty regularly. Rotting meat doesn’t really appeal to yellow jackets. You’ll need to keep emptying the lure, and probably replace the lure a few times, too.
Some people enjoy putting together homemade water traps. That’s a bucket that holds about five gallons. You fill it with soapy water, and then get some ham, liver, turkey, or fish. You take that as bait and use the string to hang it about two inches over the water. Wrap some meshing around the bait so that you don’t start feeding squirrels or other animals. Yellow jackets will fly to the meat and then go down to the water–which has the soap to help it get stuck in the water and drown. (You can also add soft drinks and hummingbird nectar as a draw.) These might capture too many yellow jackets in late winter. Set them in early autumn, though, and you’ll only be catching those foragers again.
It’s not too bad to knock down a nest when you see it just starting to form, though. All that does is send the wannabe queen off to start a new nest, or maybe go join another nest. We don’t recommend any poison traps. The poisons that work best were taken off the market years ago. Aerosol sprays are particularly bad. It’s not a bad idea to bring in the professionals if you have serious nest activity that needs to be dismantled. The pros aren’t going to be in a hurry to wipe out an entire community, either–especially if you explain to them that you’re gardening. You may not have a cool body count to show off on Reddit, but you’ll be helping your own little ecosystem.