Using Yellowjacket Wasp Bait

-- New baits to control dangerous wasp nests --

Summary: A new insecticide is available that can be used to prepare bait to control both aerial (above ground) and ground-nesting scavenger 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. The downside is you'll need to make the bait yourself.

Common misspelling: yellow jacket (should be one word)

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Jack DeAngelis, ext. entomologist (ret.) revised: 11/2018

What are scavenger wasps and social wasps?

Some wasp species build large nests in which there is a division of labor between worker wasps and a reproductive queen, similar to the way ant colonies and some bee colonies are organized. These are the so-called "social wasps". These nests can be quite large containing hundreds or even thousands of worker wasps. These workers are also tasked with defending the nest from intruders.

The term scavenger yellowjacket wasps refers to those species that will feed on dead animal protein as well as live prey. Most wasp species are strict predators and will not scavenge dead animals (or our picnics!). Scavenger species tend to make far larger and more dangerous nests because they utilize this extra protein source. See this article for more detail about the differences between scavenger and non-scavenger species.

Yellowjacket wasps (Vespula sp. and Dolichovespula sp.) are social wasps that build large nests both above ground (aerial nests; see photo below) 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 wasp 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.

aerial yellowjacket nest

Aerial yellowjacket nest

Wasp baits that contain insecticide may control the entire 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 of poison baiting to control troublesome wasp nests

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 wasp poison bait recipe

Meat (protein)-based baits generally work best. Sugary baits should be avoided since they 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 should 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.

Mixing bait and insecticide

Currently the only insecticide I'm aware of that can legally be used to prepare wasp bait in the US is Onslaught Microencapsulated Insecticide. Unfortunately the label for Onslaught does not give much detail regarding the mixing of the bait. All the official label says is "For Yellowjacket control, Onslaught® Microencapsulated Insecticide can be mixed with baits in traps. Follow trap instructions for preparation of bait. Label Rev. 0216a-0316" Not very helpful! Here's what I believe to be a reasonable starting point:

Thoroughly mix together 1/4 teaspoon (1.23 ml) of concentrate with 12 oz of protein-based bait. Don't overdo it because too much insecticide can cause the bait to be rejected by foraging wasps. This works out to 4 x 3 oz 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 ( is our affiliate).

Bait dispenser (bait station) The bait dispenser and placement must ensure that only yellowjacket wasps 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 of a bait station, one commercially-available bait station (see DoMyOwn link above), costing about $2.50 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 dispensers 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.


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