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It’s time to think about wasps

We beekeepers tend to think of yellowjackets and bald-faced hornets as fall predators. Since only the queens live through the winter,  few of these wasps are seen in the early spring. Still, the process has begun. All by herself the queen begins to lay eggs and establish a brood nest. As the months pass by, the number of offspring multiplies quickly until the air is thick with dangly-legged carnivores. By fall they are attacking your weaker hives, eating adult bees, ravaging the brood, and consuming honey stores.

Wasps are aggressive and hard to control once they learn there’s a local restaurant with bee sushi on the menu. One of the best ways to reign in these creatures is to kill the queens in the spring as soon as you see them. There won’t be many—just one here, one there—but by killing the queens now you can avoid a lot of trouble later.

You can use pheromone traps if you like, but I find a butterfly net quick and easy. The queens are large, easy to see, and don’t fly all that fast. Just scoop them up and give them a squish. I know . . . it sounds cruel. But if you want to minimize cruel, get them before they dismember your bees.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

"Hey, mom, what's for dinner?" Flickr photo by Ineta McParland.

Comments

Emily
Reply

The solitary non-aggressive wasps are worth encouraging, as they eat aphids and other insects round the garden.

Vicki
Reply

Just curious – would a yellow jacket queen be attracted to her own pheremones in a trap?

Rusty
Reply

Vicki,

That’s exactly what I was wondering when I read this on the Rescue site (Rescue manufactures wasp traps): “Yellowjacket colonies started by just one queen can grow to include anywhere from 400 to 5,000 workers later in the season. To prevent some yellowjacket nests from ever being established, you can use the RESCUE!® Yellowjacket Trap to catch the queens in early spring. Every queen caught in the spring means fewer yellowjackets will be around to torment you in the summer.”

All I can think of is that it’s not a queen pheromone but some other kind, maybe a brood pheromone. I honestly don’t know what’s in them.

Cory
Reply

My colleague made this video. I made some of these traps and placed them right on top of my hives. They catch a great number of wasps (not just paper wasps, either) and very few bees. I would estimate one bee caught for every 40 wasps. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhXeB-DAG3k&feature=player_embedded (Hopefully this link is correct. You may have to copy/paste into a browser.)

Colin
Reply

We got a flowery air spray for our WC last year. When a wasp found its way in through a small window it got despatched by being sprayed on the window with wasp killing spray. Anyway, we went away for a weekend break and left the small window open. When we returned, we were amazed to see dozens of dead wasps on the windowsill ! Maybe a flowery scented air freshener combined with wasp spray would make a cheap alternative wasp trap !

Rusty
Reply

Colin,

Interesting. Did the flowery spray attract only wasps or were other insects lured as well?

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