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Yellow Jackets vs. Cake Cover: A Success Story

8/14/2008 11:27:21 AM

Tags: yellow jackets, wasps, beneficial insects, organic pest control

yellow jacket cover 

I got out early to finish setting out my fall broccoli, and it's a good thing I did. As the morning warmed, I realized I was not alone. Only a foot from where I'd been working for an hour, yellow jackets began shooting out of a 1-inch hole in the ground like popcorn from a hot air popper.

Heart pounding, I did what I did last year when a yellow jacket nest appeared in the butternuts. I popped an old cake cover over the entry hole, and weighted it with a brick.

It's the most natural way I know to deal with a badly placed yellow jacket nest, and folks have been doing it for a long time. Before there were translucent plastic cake covers, people used large glass bowls. The wasps buzz around inside the cover for a week or so, but because they can't leave to gather food and water, the colony basically starves to death. The light that comes through the cover convinces the wasps that there's hope, so they don't try to dig an alternate entry hole.

It's not that I don't like yellow jackets. As Terry Krautwurst eloquently explains in Wasps!, yellow jackets are major beneficials, and this time of year they are all over my garden. They drink water from the bird bath, feed on composting fruit, and seem to spend a lot of time looking for meaty insects among weeds and grasses. As I watch them, it's clear that they know way more than I do about every aspect of my garden — weather, plants, insects, birds — the whole enchilada.

But you have to draw the line somewhere, and I draw mine at the garden fence. Nests outside the garden's boundary get to stay, but inner garden incursions are met with the lethal cake cover. Try it. It works.

yellow jacket cls 

Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on .

Photos by Barbara Pleasant

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Post a comment below.


Sarah Littlefield
7/6/2012 2:57:06 PM
I've been using clear party cups to cover the holes, about 15 of them. This is not working. Every day there are 4-5 new holes in the ground. Is there another solution? Their nest is in my vegetable garden, which is right next to the house where my dog and daughter play.

8/13/2010 2:59:49 PM
This may sound crazy, but the best way I've found to rid your yard of yellow jackets is to use a 5 gallon plastic bucket with a couple of inches of water in the bottom. Notch the rim to hold a wire coat hanger in place, and hang a fish or other piece of meat in the bucket over the water, maybe an inch. They flock to the fish/meat, eat too much, then hit the water when they try to fly out, and drown. You'll have hundreds of them floating on the surface of the water within a few days time.

8/13/2010 2:53:46 PM
This may sound crazy, but the best way I've found to rid your yard of yellow jackets is to use a 5 gallon plastic bucket with a couple of inches of water in the bottom. Notch the rim to hold a wire coat hanger in place, and hang a fish or other piece of meat in the bucket over the water, maybe an inch. They flock to the fish/meat, eat too much, then hit the water when they try to fly out, and drown. You'll have hundreds of them floating on the surface of the water within a few days time.

odeene boles_2
7/4/2010 9:31:17 PM
Ants - I have just moved into a home in the sandhills area and the yard is a mass of dens of tiny little ants. They are not a hazard, just do their own thing, but I want to garden and they DO resent it when I jeopardize their home. I don't want to kill them. Does anyone have suggestions on ways to encourage them to move to the adjacent vacant lot? Appreciate any suggestions. Thanks

5/27/2009 8:03:13 AM
This is the only acceptable method to eliminate (dangerous to us that are allergic) ground wasps, especially the aggressive yellow jackets! Couple hints not mentioned; if you inadvertently disturb the nest and get attacked - RUN AND STRIP! Throw off hat, shirt; however much until you reach safety. The first wasps out, mark the intruder with scent that the rest can identify; by throwing off your marked shirt or hat, they will focus on that, and you may escape without being stung. This has saved me from emergency room several times! Another hint to get to the hive more safely, is to wait to place the glass at night. You will be less likely to be stung, as more will be in the hive asleep. Also, I hill up some dirt around the rim to insure no unseen gaps that a stray, determined wasp can open. I live and work on a farm, and have used this procedure successfully over 25 years. As for ants, I use cucumber peelings! Inside or outside the house, just put them where ants travel. They are completely harmless to children or pets, but there is a chemical in the peel that is toxic to the ant. They go after the moisture and chew pieces to take back to the nest, thereby eliminating all. As the peelings dry up, just keep replacing. This, too, will take some time; but be patient, the rewards are worth it. When we dug our foundation, we had ants in everything. In 4-6 wks. they were gone, and have never had another one in the house since!

Jim D
5/19/2009 12:14:53 PM
re. ants - Jordyce, I have also used instant oatmeal or grits sprinkled over the nest with some success. Last week we put a humming bird feeder near an established bird bath. We soon saw ants climbing the harp to the feeder. Then the birds seemed to enjoy a snack with their bath. I have no way of measuring effectiveness, but it has been an amusing sight.

Keith Hallam_1
5/13/2009 11:28:33 PM
Hi, ants are killed instantly by washing up liquid. Buy the cheapest and mix with a little water or use neat. Follow the ant trail back to the nest and flood it. Also, ants will not cross a thin line of washing up liquid. You can also use water from the sink after washing the pots but it's not as effective in the short term.

5/13/2009 2:15:53 PM
To get rid of ants. I have pets and I did not want to use poison. A farmer told me to use Cream of Wheat or Farina. Sprinkle this on the nest in the ground and they will eat it and go for water. Then the granuals will absorb water and expand and kill the ants. It works.

5/13/2009 1:38:34 PM
Try a strong sugar and water mix with borax added to it. They drink it and they take it back to the nest and feed the young.

2/4/2009 3:41:32 PM
Just wondered if anyone has any tips for the paper wasps, other than blue...We have them nesting inside the swingset, can't paint blue there... Thanks Val

Stephen Martin_1
1/25/2009 1:43:35 PM
I had the same problem with yellow jackets taking up residence too close to the house and garden. I've developed an allergic reaction to their stings to the point of having to carry an epi-pen. I would have preferred the method described in the article, but needing to rid them quickly, I used a shop vac and placed the suction end close to the entrance and turned it on. The noise and vibration from the air being sucked in stirred them up and they came out in a hurry. Even the ones arriving on scene went into defensive mode and inside of about 45 minutes the job was done. The shop vac was emptied out a couple days later when I was sure they were no longer a hazard.

1/16/2009 2:48:14 PM
I am surprised that someone else does this as well. I had a similar problem last year. Ground hornets took residence in an area of the lawn that my 2 year old son frequently played near. I really didn't want to use pesticides, but they had to go somehow. Finally, after no luck of searching on the internet, I deviced a scheme to cover the hole with a heavy board with a heavy rock on top. For extra security i covered that up with a small kids pool- and, it worked!

Greg Hethcox
9/3/2008 1:36:20 PM
Great comment about yellow jackets. They seem to always find the back of my neck or forehead to sting! Do you have a way other than poisins to rid my yard and trees of unwanted little black ants. They're everywhere. thanks, Greg Oxford, AL

Greg Hethcox
9/3/2008 10:11:55 AM
Great info about the yellow jackets. Wow, they can really sting. Do you have a good solution for ants. I have many of little black ants in trees and around the yard-especially around the garden. Short of spraying poisins, is there a better solution? Thanks, Greg

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