Wasps and bees have been neighbours and enemies for a very long time, both are social insects, in that they live in social groups for their common benefit.
The most common species of wasps in the UK are Vespula Germanica and Vespula Vulgaris
Bees live all year in their colonies feeding on nectar and pollen, where-as wasps re-build their colony from a single queen every year, wasps however are omnivorous; and they can kill and eat your bees. See the National Bee Unit wasp advisory HERE.
Types of wasp traps vary from the device manufactured to catch wasps, to the “Add-on’s” (Something you add on to another container to make the trap); and of course the home made traps with designs many and wondrous! (Usually involving sharp knives and sticky tape)
All the traps have one important thing in common, the one thing that they will fail to work without, the “enticement” or “Wasp Bait”, else why would the wasp enter the trap?
There are various recipes for wasp bait, and various chemical types; in practice some of them work and some don’t. You will have to find out what your local wasps prefer, and this will vary with the time of year, as when the colony starts to break up they will prefer sweet things like HONEY.
Wasp Bait recipes – Various sources quote that wasps like fermenting fruit such as bannana, pineapple and beer, some concoctions use jam and vinegar; but beware of sugar substitute in drinks and jams (usually sold as sugar free”) as these will not have the desired effect; Wasps want SUGAR!
Wasps, as the wasp colony grows may want protein to feed the grubs, and dog food has been said to be a good bait that doesn’t attract bees. Later in the year they tend to want Sugar and rotting fruit releases attractants.
Do NOT under any circumstances use any bee products like honey or wax in your wasp bait recipe, as this raises your chances of catching your own bees and engaging the wasps attentions in the direction of other sources of honey and wax; in short your own hives.
Chemical Wasp Baits
If you search for the chemicals used in the freely available artificial wasp baits, you find most appear to be combinations three main ingredients.
Acetic Acid (also known as ethanoic acid); found in some nail polish removers and domestic vinegar.
Heptyl-butyrate (this mimics rotting fruit) and is also a food additive.
Isobutanol (this is mainly a fuel additive) but is also licenced for food use, it is naturally produced by decaying matter.
Heptyl-butyrate is found abundantly in fresh apples and is a major food additive in cheaper food products and sweets, usually the variety of product made from heavily processed contents, so apparently cheap fruit juices are better than fresh fruit juice for attracting wasps!
An interesting research paper in 1998 suggests that acetic acid in combination with other substances can be very effective against different strains of wasps, with differing formulations targeting different strains.
The paper can be found HERE
Placing Traps – The Trap..
Where to place wasp traps is a bit of a beekeeping dilemma, as what you actually want to do is catch wasps and NOT attract more wasps to you apiary. Placing large amounts of smelly wasp bait near your hives may attract more wasps to your apiary than would have otherwise been the case. So what to do?
One method of reducing the risk is trying to identify the direction the wasps are arriving and departing the apiary, this will vary as the year progresses so will need monitoring.
Try and seed the area on the flight path to and from the apiary with the traps; that way the wasps hopefully wont get to the apiary in the first place!
It may be possible to move the traps away from the Apiary to provide a “feeding station” for the wasps to meet their “Doom” and provide an easy alternative to fighting with your bees.
Sometimes all you may be able to do is surround a hive with wasp traps with the inevitable consequences on the local slug, fly and moth populations. However be conscious of the fact that the more wasp attractants you surround your hives with, the more wasps you will attract!
There are ingenious wasp entrances for hives available, but I am unaware of any that work well or have been recommended; or indeed live up-to the claims made about them. An example HERE
Some novel methods of wasp control use fake wasp nests positioned near the area you want to keep clear, the idea is that wasps see the nest and think there is a rival colony and steer well clear to avoid instant death. The product is called the Waspinator click on the link for further information.
Search and Destroy?
The destruction of the wasp nest causing the issue affecting your apiary is obviously a desirable thing from the beekeepers point of view, there are various methods and treatments available; however caution is advised and it is suggested you contact your local council for pest control advice.
Please remember that wasps are also a valued part of your local eco-system, and are a very efficient predator that performs vary valuable pest control in your garden; they do not need to be wiped out; just re-directed to non “Bee-related” pursuits!
Links to other sites
There are no product endorsements here, just links to example products; if searching for commercial products just type “Wasp Trap” into any search engine on the internet.
Commercial Products, such as WaspBane, and the Standard dome wasp trap are bespoke devices with chemical lures.
The BBKA sells these attractive yellow clip on assemblies to add to your old glass jars. HERE
Plastic bottle Inserts are many and varied such as the BuzzOff inserts, again just search the internet.
The Wasp funnel trap is an old favourite of some northern beekeepers and is detailed on the Dave Cushman online beekeeping resource.HERE
The Lemonade bottle trap?
The simplest design wasp trap is the standard 2 litre lemonade bottle cut in half; with the top inverted and placed inside, like this illustration below.
The main problem however with this repeatedly used design is that it is exactly the same design used the world over as a rain-gauge!
Your “rain-gauge wasp and slug trap” will very quickly be full of water and of little use as a wasp trap if you live near any clouds; so you can put a shield of some type over the top to alleviate this the wasps don’t mind. This will prolong its use before you have to empty it.
On the plus side the “Wasp and slug soup” can be used as good fertilizer for your bee friendly flowers!
As you will see there are various ways to attempt to deal with the problem of wasps, in some cases the only way is to close down the colony or move it to a different location if the problem is severe.
At the end of the year the wasp colony disbands as the Queen wasps head off in search of new nest sites for next year; keep your eyes open as they might try and over winter on or near your hives. (or even under the roof of your colony!)
Its not all bad news if you have wasps, as they are incredibly good at catching on the wing other flying insects and grubs, and I have seen them taking a voracious interest on the wax-moth grubs in the varroa tray!
With the cold winter frosts the wasp problem will diminish and you will inevitably catch more slugs than wasps, so don’t forget to remove the wasp traps for the sake of the local wildlife; unless that is you enjoy the aroma of fermenting invertebrates?! – WebBee