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Yellowjacket Wasp Baits

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Entomologist (ret.)

Summary: An new insecticide is available that can be used to prepare bait for control of both aerial and ground-nesting yellowjacket wasps. Poison baiting has many advantages over conventional methods for control of dangerous wasp nests. It is no longer necessary, for example, to locate individual nests.

Disclaimer

aerial yellowjacket nest
Aerial yellowjacket (social wasp) nest

Wasp nests

Yellowjackets, or social wasps, build large nests both above ground (aerial nests; see photo) and below ground (see Yellowjacket Wasps for details about wasp biology and nest building). These nests can contain thousands of wasps and may become dangerous, especially in late summer and early fall when numbers peak.

When these nests occur in high traffic areas such as playgrounds or picnic sites it may be necessary to destroy the nests. Until recently the only options were to locate and carefully treat individual nests with insecticide, or use decoy traps to move wasps away from human activity.


Baits control the entire wasp nest

The use of insecticide-laced baits has always been the preferred way to control troublesome wasp nests on an area-wide basis. The problem has been that the only insecticide that could be used to prepare the bait was taken off the market about 10 years ago.  Recently, however, a new insecticide has come along that once again allows for use in baits for control of yellowjackets. Baiting has a number of advantages over conventional control options and really no significant disadvantages.

The "theory" behind how baits work is that foraging wasps locate the insecticide-laced bait and carry some back to the nest where they feed it to developing brood and the queen thus destroying the entire colony. Only those wasp species that scavenge dead animals (see Scavenger vs Predator Yellowjackets) will be attracted to the bait; these species tend to be the pests at outdoor events and build the larger, more threatening nests.

Advantages

  • No need to locate individual nests
  • Targets only the scavenger yellowjacket species, the type that cause the most problems
  • May reduce wasp activity the following year
  • Very low environmental impact
  • Very low non-target impact; even non-pestifierous wasp species are not affected

Disadvantages

  • none

Please read: Social wasps, including scavenger yellowjacket species, are considered to be beneficial insects in that they prey on many plant pests. It is only when wasp activity becomes threatening should control of nests be considered. These procedures involve obvious risks and should only be undertaken if you are comfortable working with concentrated insecticide and are willing to assume all risks associated with this activity. Read and follow all pesticide label instructions.
 


The bait

Meat (protein)-based baits generally work best. Sugary baits should be avoided since these can attract and kill non-target insects like honeybees.

Bait can be prepared from canned fish such as tuna, minced meats, canned cat food and so forth. Several different baits can be tested to find the one that is most acceptable to your local pest species. A small amount of vegetable oil can be added as well to enhance bait acceptance.


The insecticide

The only insecticide that can legally be used to prepare wasp bait is Onslaught Microencapsulated Insecticide (see label below). Unfortunately the label for Onslaught does not give much detail regarding the mixing of the bait but 1/4 teaspoon per 12 oz of bait is probably a good starting point. Don't overdo it because too much insecticide can cause the bait to be rejected by foraging yellowjackets. This works out to 4 x 3oz bait placements per 1/4 teaspoon of Onslaught.

Where to purchase wasp bait supplies: Onslaught Insecticide and wasp bait stations are not available in home and garden-type stores but can be purchased here (DoMyOwnPestControl).

Bait dispenser (bait station)

The bait dispenser and placement must ensure that only yellowjackets can access the bait. It is your responsibility to protect non-target animals from exposure to the bait. Keep bait placements small, no more than 3 oz, and constructed and placed so that they are secure. It is against the law to put pesticides, including yellowjacket baits, into used food and drink containers.

As an example, one commercially-available bait station (see link above), costing about $10 each (w/out bait), looks like a large pill bottle with a 1/2" hole drilled near the top and a string from the screw-on cap that is used to suspend it from a support.  Wasps enter and exit through the hole and the cap keeps other animals out. Other designs may work just as well. Two bait stations per acre should be sufficient for most situations and dispersers can be hung from a variety of supports (vegetation, fence posts, and so forth). Bait needs to be replaced when it is no longer accepted by worker yellowjackets, probably every 3 days or so.

Start your baiting program around mid-summer when you see an increase in foraging yellowjacket activity. Starting any earlier than mid-summer is probably a waste of time because of limited wasp activity.

Related Articles

Onslaught Insecticide label (pdf)

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