JoAnne Skelly: Battling yellow jackets |

JoAnne Skelly: Battling yellow jackets

JoAnne Skelly
Pork loin is used to attract wasps to a yellow jacket trap.
JoAnne Skelly

Recently we visited friends at beautiful Flathead Lake, Montana, where, unfortunately, yellow jackets were swarming. They attacked for no reason and their bites/stings burn and itch, often causing swelling. We started an all-out battle to rid the decks, the dock and the lawns of the wasps, so we could enjoy being outside.

The first line of attack was to hang traps loaded with a chemical attractant available from retail outlets. The principle is that the yellow jackets go inside the trap and die because they can’t get out. The traps do fill with yellow jackets, but there were so many that the traps filled within a couple of hours.

Another strategy occurred simultaneously with the traps. This was wasp and hornet spray. You do have to hit the flying darting pests with the spray. It’s a short-term, temporary fix and only lasts while you are spraying and if you contact them.

On to the big guns: homemade traps using two- to five-gallon buckets. Meat is hung as bait on a string or fishing line over a bucket that is about one-third full of soapy water. The wasps gorge themselves on the meat, fall in the bucket and drown. It definitely works. Within half-hour, there were multiple wasps in the water. After a couple of hours, there seemed to be hundreds in the water. As long as the meat held out, wasps overate, fell in and drowned.

My friend Lee had a lovely pork loin she was cooking for dinner and decided to trim it and use it as bait. Yellow jackets absolutely love raw pork loin. I highly recommend it as bait! In fact, she could have fed them the whole thing, they ate it so quickly. Instead of losing our dinner to these voracious eaters, she tried cooked steak and pieces of salami. They went for the fatty bits of the steak but ignored the salami (maybe they know something health-wise that we should be paying attention to!).

Raw meat, including bacon, works better than cooked. Lee started with one bucket and eventually ended up with five trap buckets going at once. To keep up with the numbers of wasps, she had to re-bait a couple of times a day, a hazard in itself.

When you add to the previous attack tools, four flyswatters and a salt gun (a plastic toy-type gun used to shoot table salt at the buggers) and three men drinking beer, it turned into quite a party! Not sure we won the war, though.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at