Country Lore: Get Rid of Yellow Jackets

Have your picnic and eat it too; here's how to safely control yellow jackets and bees that are after your lunch.

| October/November 2001

  • Yellow Jacket
    Yellow jackets and bees have a habit of ruining al fresco meals. Here's how to distract them.
  • 188-008-1a
    Sphinx moths can be bad news for your garden. Yellow jackets help keep their populations under control.

  • Yellow Jacket
  • 188-008-1a

One day while I was out taking a leisurely stroll, I was suddenly surrounded by what seemed to be every yellow jacket within a square-mile radius. Suspecting the pesky little critters were more interested in my sugary beverage than they were in me, I slowly set the can of cola on the ground, then fled the scene. How does one get rid of yellow jackets?

My experience with the wasps put me off of any activities that could involve stinging insects until my husband taught me that giving the wasps their own little serving of food and drink encouraged them to leave us humans alone. For a handy yellow jacket trap, put a drop of soda and a dollop of your sandwich meat at the opposite end of the table, cover your drink with one hand (substituting iced tea also helps) and gently wave your other hand over your food until the critters discover the smaller, undisturbed meal. You can enjoy your own lunch, while the bees and wasps enjoy theirs.

Great tip, Barbara. Although they can be a nuisance, yellow jackets and other wasps are actually very beneficial in the garden. The wasps feed on harmful pests, such as the sphinx moth.  Sphinx moths, also called hummingbird moths, are fun to watch as they feed on flower nectar in the evenings, but the eggs they lay hatch into the infamous tomato and tobacco hornworms, which damage garden crops. Yellow jackets also feed on grasshoppers, flies, caterpillars and aphids.

Yellow jacket populations sometimes explode in the summer, and the insects can become extremely aggressive. Never disturb their nests (usually made in the ground). If anyone is stung, everyone should go inside because the wasps release an alarm scent that prompts others to sting. If you must, you can trap yellow jackets with a homemade trap made by drilling three eighth-inch holes in a plastic two-liter bottle, then baiting it with 10 percent molasses and water, a pinch of yeast and a few drops of dish detergent. Happy picnicking! — MOTHER

8/20/2017 10:38:06 AM

Put a brown paper bag a bit puffed up on your table with the end scrunched close. The wasps think it is a competing hive and stay away. I used this method in my green house as well and it kept them away

8/15/2017 9:58:33 PM

When checking on my plants one evening I spied a half dozen wasps flying around the tops of my tomatoes. They'd fly in and fly back out and then I saw him. He was hanging on to the stem, fighting off the wasps like King Kong on top of the Empire State Building swatting at the aeroplanes, but this guy was using his head. I saw the wasps fly in and sting, back off while another wasp flew in for an attack. The Tomato Hornworm (@ 5 inches long...HUGE) was now a goner. I plucked him off and set him near by. The wasps cut him up and flew off with him to feed their larva, I guess. Predator/Prey right in my own backyard.

Walter Williams
7/8/2012 6:44:40 PM

Yellow jackets are robbing my bee hive. Eating the honey, pollen, and larvae.


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