Paper wasps are predators and help rid a garden and home of pests. When wasps build their nests too close to a home, though, it can lead to stings. These are not only painful but potentially dangerous if someone is allergic to wasps. A simple homemade trap can eliminate this hazard without resorting to chemical sprays.
Building the Trap
A paper wasp trap begins as a two- or three-liter soda bottle. Cut the bottle into two pieces right below the funnel, then invert the top half and fit it onto the bottom. Cut two or three holes where the two pieces join and thread string through the holes. The string can be attached to a hanger and hung from a tree, or wherever it's needed. Don't tie the string too tight because the trap will need to be frequently opened to change out the bait and remove dead wasps. Once the trap is built, add water to the bottom of the trap; the water should come no higher than the funnel's entrance into the trap. Add a few drops of dish-washing liquid to the water. Put a bit of petroleum jelly or cooking oil around the top of the funnel so that the wasps lose their footing when they come to investigate the bait.
Baiting the trap depends on the season. In early spring, wasps are searching for protein so they can make nests and lay eggs. Hamburger and lunch meat work well for this time of year. Setting the trap during in early spring and late winter carries the possibility of catching a queen. If the queen is killed, then the wasps will go build a nest somewhere else. Sweet foods work well as bait during the summer. Pour a bit of root beer or other sweet liquid into a bottle cap and float it on the water inside the trap. Fruit pieces work well, especially if they are cut to release the juicy smell. Wasps are especially attracted to mashed grapes.
The trap should be kept away from human activity and about four feet above the ground. The ideal temperature for the trap is about 85 degrees, so keep it in the shade on a hot afternoon, or in the sun during a cold snap. The wasps will fly into the trap to investigate the bait, but will not be able to fly out. They will fly around inside the trap until they are exhausted and fall into the water. The soap in the water breaks up the surface tension, causing the water to stick to the wasps. They will drown because they breathe through their bodies. The trap should be regularly emptied because the accumulation of bodies can create an island on which the wasps can land. Take care when emptying the trap because if a live wasp escapes, it can return to the nest and alert its comrades that they are in danger. This message will make wasps aggressive and even swarm. The same can happen if dead wasps' bodies are crushed, which can release a "danger" chemical that the rest of the colony smells. Bury the bodies instead.
Kyle Martin has been a newspaper reporter in Florida for over three years, and was a reporter in Mississippi before that. He is fluent in Spanish, having lived overseas during his formative years. He has a Bachelor of Arts in communications, with a concentration in journalism from Mississippi College.