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Dealing with hornets and yellow jackets


Hello from Washington State! I have a question for any of you who have successfully dealt with yellow jackets. A yellow jacket or hornet colony destroyed two of my hives this year. They came in overwhelming number and killed both queens. I’ve used traps. I’ve killed them manually by the dozens. Does anybody have a better solution? Thank you.


We had problems with Wasps this year - mainly because there was a lack of forage in our worst Summer for 40 years it turns out.

I killed any near my hives, put up traps and kept my bees strong and fed them inside the hives - entrances can be reduced to give the guard bees a better chance - the lack of forage did make the bees a bit more protective of their stores as well.

Using a trap made simply from pop bottle is easy and put vinegar in them as well as cordial; the bees don’t like the smell or vinegar but wasps do.

If you have weak hives you need to be more vigilant.


Our western yellow jackets are pretty ferocious. While not pleasant to have around they are beneficial so we usually put up with the nuisance they create.

But not this time, A hive that established right by my folks front door just about destroyed my mom and sister this summer. They had dozens of welts for weeks after the hive swarmed them. The pack chased them into the house!!

One evening after dark we took an old piece of netting, about a yard square, and staked it down over the nest, weighing the edge down all the way around with dirt to seal it. Then we put the hose on top and turned it on and let it soak into the whole area. We left it going for a few hours until the ground was saturated and then turned it down to a drip thru the night so that it kept seeping in. Drowned those little buggers with in the nest.

Meat Eater is one thing, People Eater is another!

If you know where the nest is and they are a real safety issue this is one way of handling it.

Gassing the nest with chemicals isn’t our go to resolution to pest management in most cases, but that is another way to deal with a nest as well.

Wear your bee suit while doing this, just in case. Those bites are nothing to fool around with. When they come in numbers they can do real damage.


This year my two hives were relentlessly attacked by yellow jackets. The main hive swarmed (which I caught) resulting in 1 moderately strong and one just starting out. The weaker hive didn’t make it and the stronger one is still fighting though I’ve been unable to inspect it thoroughly as we prepare for winter her in the NorthEast US (NY).

Here’s what I had to deal with and my solutions (well reactions rather)

I first went to robber screens since it was still hot. This was ok but the wasps eventually located the top ‘secret’ entrance. This was a real dilemma because since the hives were not at full strength there were not enough guards needed to manage the entrance so wasps eventually got in.

This was the worst in early morning where the wasps were out but the bees had not appeared yet so the door was wide open. It got so bad I even tried closing the entrances for 24-48 hrs but that just ended up killing bees trapped inside while the wasps waited it out.

I had started out with a single phermone trap and it worked well but my setting is woods-like so there are lots of places for multiple nests so locate & destroy was not so obvious. I eventually got up to 4 traps and filled them up but they kept coming.

Eventually I surrendered the weak hive and decided to use it as bait/diversion away from the remaining hive, opening it up and then closing it up with the robber screen and then placing traps on it. So there were live wasps in it, stuck behind the screen, which added to the attraction. This was the mother of all traps and made a real dent in their assault.

Alas, wasps eventually find their way to the prize and were back on the existing hive pretty soon. I had a routine in the morning of visiting the hive for a squash fest and throughout the day as well. Talk about labor intensive.

The real problem is you can’t open the hives without inviting them in - it sucks to just watch a few just zoom into the hive as you’re inspecting. I tried to find some info on how the bees treat wasps that are already in and found that once they are in they usually have full reign since they smell like the hive and are ignored - this means if the entrance is breached you’re in trouble.

It’s December now and it’s been very mild with no hard frost yet - which I’m relying on to finally kill the remaining ones off. Fingers crossed. I moved to a reduced entrance (the smallest) and took one of the rotating door closures off the robber screen and attached to the single entrance. This allowed me to reduce the space further so they can just crawl out and remove dead bees.

The real mistake I made was not being proactive - you need to get the traps out in early spring (here) and kill the queens and stop it before it begins. Another side note was that in addition to having low populations due to the split, they were further weakened after treating with ApiLife which killed a good number. The final bummer was I had no honey to pull due to the split. Not a good year but an educational one. Good luck and please share your strategies


That sounds just awful. It goes to show that the only real deterrent is a very strong colony.
Have a look at this site
I’m not suggesting the traps, though I do use them. Click on the BEE KEEPING link. There is lots of useful information there.
Once a weak hive is under attack the only solution is to move it right away.


Hi all, I am getting back into beekeeping after being away for 55 years. I put out multiple yellow jacket traps each year as my wife has allergies to them. I get them up very early to trim them down before there numbers get huge. I have has success putting out large container ( like # 10 restaurant tins ). I add a full can of the smelliest tuna I can find to water the 1/2 full can of water. I place several very thin sticks or limbs to bridge over the wide can. The lighting Yellowjackets fall into the nasty brew from the sides n trigs in great number. I would place these smelly traps away from the hives so the nasty insects are pulled away hives area n fall to their water demise. Hopefully this might work for you as well. Once the number number new yellow jackets is greatly reduced a strong hive with a reduced entrance will have much better luck dealing with these predators.

I know Yellowjackets are pollinators but my wife’s health n valve of my hives are much more important. Also I do destroy all jackets nests I can find with sprays n/or long handled torches if using a flame is safe.

Good luck, Coalfieldbeelover Gerald


Hi Dee, fortunately we don’t have yellow jackets where I live, looks like keeping the hive really strong works in lots of cases, SHB included. In this video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUOW1QbNow4, at the 5:40 mark, is the wasp being removed by the bees a Yellowjacket?


They usually have another entrance somewhere, try and find that one too.


mdtablet…I, too, live in upstate NY and lost two out yard hives to YJ. You hit the nail on the head about Spring and yellowjacket queens. That’s when she is out looking to start a new nest. Be proactive and kill any you see in Spring. They are probably the queens. I have a friend who had such bad robbing that, like you, found the way in past the robbing screens. She duct taped a tube from the front entrance around the side and back. The bees finally found their way in and solved her yellowjacket problem.


It is, Jeff.
I think Yellowjacket is American colloquial for wasp


Wasps and yellow jackets are different. Wasps have tiny waists and respond to fruit traps. Yellow jackets look more like non-fuzzy bees and are strictly carnivorous. They respond to meat traps but not to vinegar or fruit traps.


Thank you for your response. I did all of those things. These were first year hives attacked by a yellow jacket nest located (I suspect) in the third story belfry of the church across the street. The only way to save these hives would likely have been relocation. We killed hundreds but the pests came in the thousands. Vigilance wasn’t the issue. My other beeyard wasn’t targeted and all four hives thrived even during our severe drought.


Thanks Dee, after @Eterrell’s post, I checked again, it looks like a wasp & not a yellow jacket. It appears as though the bees can handle wasps alright, but maybe not yellow jackets so easy. I’m just glad I don’t have them, only small black beetles:)


Following up here. The very small hive I managed to save from the YJ onslaught is now rebounding - even after many starved after a cold snap of -29F temps. This is definitely genetic stock I want to preserve - survivors!

First signs of YJs this last week so more traps went up. One item I observed that those with YJ issues should pay attention too - the YJs are flying earlier in the morning than the bees, often finding the entrance not guarded, and simply walking in. Now if we only had a timer that opened / closed the entrance!