Honeybees face many threats throughout the year, but in late summer and early fall yellowjacket wasps are a particular hazard. They have been known to attack bee colonies and will take both bees and honey.
As you probably well know, wasps are also a nuisance to us, especially when trying to eat outdoors in the sunshine. However, know that although they are annoying, yellowjackets are important to our ecosystem as they prey on certain insect pests while also helping to remove dead animal and plant matter.
If you are a beekeeper though, you might want to learn how to protect honeybees from yellowjackets. Fortunately, there are a number of things that can be done to keep your colonies safe.
Preventing Yellowjackets from Entering a Hive
The smell of honey from a hive will attract yellowjackets, especially towards late summer and early fall when other food sources are beginning to dwindle. They may also be attracted to a hive by the smell of dead bees. Therefore, it is important to regularly clear away any dead bees from the vicinity of the hive. You should also make sure that any feeding stations are placed inside the hive during fall as these can attract yellowjackets who may then attack the hive.
Beekeepers often reduce the number of entrances to their hives if they are worried about an attack from yellowjacket wasps. When there are fewer entrances for your bees to guard, they will become more effective at keeping yellowjackets away.
You may also consider using traps to catch or kill the yellowjackets. Traps typically use bait that will attract the wasps and either kill them or hold them until they can be disposed of by the beekeeper. Traps can be placed around the hives or near to a yellowjacket nest, if you know where it is located.
Reducing the Yellowjacket Population
Traps are useful in keeping the immediate yellowjacket population down, which means that there is less chance of your hive being attacked. If you know of a yellowjacket nest, you can place traps around it in early spring, which is the time when the queen begins to lay eggs. You may be lucky enough to catch the yellowjacket queen in one of your traps while she is out foraging. If you do, then she will obviously be unable to lay eggs, which will help to keep the population low and too weak to attack your hives.
You can make your own traps or buy them online (see an excellent selection here on Amazon if you’re interested – opens in a new tab). Regardless of the type of trap used, you will need to use bait. Bait sold commercially is usually in liquid form and is made to smell like honey to attract the wasps. When making your own traps for yellowjackets, raw chicken makes for an ideal bait. Indeed, making your own wasp trap is straightforward enough:
Step 1: Choose a transparent plastic bottle and remove any labels (a soda bottle is a good choice).
Step 2: Cut the top of the bottle to leave a larger opening. Carefully use a scissors or knife to cut around 1-2 inches underneath the original opening. Use a damp cloth underneath the bottle when cutting to prevent it from slipping. You need to keep the piece that you have cut from the bottle.
Step 3: You will need to grease the inside of the bottle to prevent the wasps from being able to climb out. You can use a piece of paper towel with oil or petroleum to do this.
Step 4: Get the piece of the bottle that you have cut away and place it upside down in the new opening. Secure it with tape. This will allow the wasps to easily get into the bottle but will prevent them from exiting.
Step 5: Puncture a hold on either side of the top of the bottle to allow you to tie string to create a handle, which can then be used to hang the trap.
Step 6: Meat scraps such as those cut from meat when preparing meals are great to use as bait. Wasps feed their young protein, so meat makes for the perfect bait, particularly in the spring. Make sure to place water in the bottle as well as this will cause the wasps to eventually drown. When choosing bait for use in late summer and early fall, it is best to choose sweet rather than savory. You can mix sugar with water and liquid soap. Make sure not to fill the bottle too much as it is important for the wasps to fully enter the trap for it to work.
Step 7: It is necessary to monitor the trap to see if you are attracting the yellowjackets. If the trap is working as it should, you will see dead wasps inside. If there are no wasps, it may be that you need to try a different type of bait or you need to move the trap to another location. If there are wasps inside, you will need to clean the trap out every few days and replace the bait.
It is important to ensure that all wasps in the trap are dead before you open it. If not, those still alive are likely to be extremely aggressive. When disposing of dead wasps, it is a good idea to either flush them away or bury them otherwise it may attract other yellowjackets. Like bees, dead wasps release a chemical that attracts the rest of the colony.
Will Honeybees Kill Yellowjackets?
When it comes to protecting the hive against an attack by yellowjackets, honeybees can be successful if the population of wasps is small while the bee colony is strong. However, a new hive that is not well established is unlikely to fare well against an attack by these aggressive wasps. If the wasps manage to get inside the hive, they will destroy everything; they will eat the honey, eggs, larvae, and pupae. They are unlikely to leave until the entire hive has been emptied.
Should You Kill Yellowjackets?
As mentioned above, yellowjackets are essential to our ecosystem because they help remove plant and animal matter as well as preying on insect pests. If you are worried about yellowjackets attacking your hive, you can take steps to prevent this from occurring. Traps are an effective way to get rid of these wasps, but if you are concerned about the threat from an aggressive colony of yellowjackets, it is probably best to call your local pest control company who will safely remove the nest.