Yellowjacket wasps are a bit of an annoyance outdoors as they hover around sweet picnic beverages as well as trash cans. While they could be considered beneficial pollinators too, yellowjackets are more dangerous than bees because they're able to sting multiple times when they feel threatened. A homemade trap made from a plastic soda bottle offers a chemical-free way to get rid of yellowjackets when their numbers seem excessive or threaten outdoor activities in your yard.
To Kill Them ... or Not
Besides being able to sting more than once, yellowjackets are a threat because smashing one causes it to release pheromones that attract even more yellowjackets. Unlike similar pollinators, they're attracted to proteins, such as meat, as well as sweet materials, such as honey or sugary beverages. They'll even attempt to enter honeybee hives to eat honey or even the young bee brood, which makes them a threat to the honeybee population as well.
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Yellowjackets are persistent in their quest for food. This is why it's a good idea to ensure any food-related trash is kept in sealed bags in sealed trash cans during warm-weather months. During picnics or barbecues, keep the food and drinks covered to keep out the wasps. Such preventive measures are a good way to keep away the wasps, but if yellowjackets are a persistent major problem in your yard, trapping them is a good way to reduce their numbers.
Though they seem like the bad guys of the pollinator world, yellowjackets do some good too. They eat garden pests, such as cabbage worms and aphids, and they even eat bugs that are already dead. Yellowjackets are also pollinators, but they're not quite as good at it as bees. If they're not really putting a damper on your outdoor activities, you may wish to just let them be since they are of some benefit to the environment.
DIY Yellowjacket Trap
Turn any empty plastic soda bottle into a yellowjacket trap by repurposing it a bit and adding elements that attract these wasps. A 2-liter or similar-size bottle is a good choice if your yard has a lot of yellowjackets, as it offers enough room to contain a fair number of these wasps. Cut off the top third of the bottle using sharp scissors or a craft knife; the bottle cap isn't needed. Pour 1 cup each of water and apple cider vinegar into the bottle plus 1/2 cup sugar, stirring to blend the ingredients.
Place a banana peel in the mixture so the peel sticks out of the liquid a bit and then place the top bottle piece upside down in the bottom so the top looks like a funnel. Tape around the perimeter with a strong tape, such as duct tape, so there are no gaps between the two bottle pieces. Set the homemade trap on a table outside in an area where you've seen yellowjackets but far away from pet and human activity areas. To make a hanging wasp trap, poke two small holes near the top of the bottom bottle portion on opposite sides and tie a loop of twine through to hang the trap on a tree branch or a tall plant hook.
Yellowjackets eventually drown when they can't get out of the trap. Check the trap a couple of times a day and make sure the yellowjackets are dead before discarding them. You may wish to simply discard the entire trap in a sealable trash bag and start fresh once you've captured a group of wasps.