• How to: Meat Bee Trap

    by  • August 4, 2010 • How to, Wildlife • 34 Comments

    How to get rid of meat eating yellowjackets

    Some folks can live and let live in the garden, but meat bees push my limits! A friend told me about this simple way to make a trap for pesky meat bees (or yellow jackets) that can keep them from getting between you and that bite of juicy hamburger next time you BBQ.

    Timing is everything

    Set out your traps at the first sign of meat bees. every one you see in March is a queen.  For every queen eradicated, there will be 5000 less workers in August!

    Roll up a slice of  sliced ham or turkey and thread it on a skewer.   Fill an old plastic bowl with water and pour vegetable oil over the surface of the water. (Use an old bowl because it will get yucky after the season and you’ll most likely want to toss it out.)

    Meat bee trap

    Meat bee trap

    Set the skewer on the bowl and adjust the water so it is about a 1/4 inch below the meat. The meat should not touch the water because the bees can then climb out.

    Why it works:

    The bees dip down after lunch to drink the water and Zap! They get caught by the oil. I’m so mean.

    Meat bee trap filled with dead yellowjackets

    Meat bee trap filled with dead yellowjackets

    After 2 1/2 hours this is what my first trap of the season looks like. The next few traps catch fewer bees because you are hopefully cutting down your yellow jacket population.

    If you have a way of dealing with meat bees, I’d love to know!

    No, these are not honey bees

    No, this doesn’t attract honey bees

    About yellowjackets:

    Yellowjacket are nest building or ground dwelling insects that we often call wasps.

    Yellowjacket or Meat bee nest

    Yellowjacket or Meat bee nest

    This nest was found on our property beyond the garden.  It had been dug up by some brave animal during the night. A brave one, or a sorrier one now!


    Yellowjackets differ from paper wasps as these build nests shown below.

        Paper wasp and nest, most commonly found under the eaves of your house

    Paper wasp and nest, most commonly found under the eaves of your house

    Yellowjackets, shown below, are attracted to meat and love to attend your bbqs, sometimes hovering maddeningly between your mouth and your bite!  Some places have so many that eating outdoors is simply impossible.

    Yellowjacket or 'meat bee'

    Yellowjacket or ‘meat bee’

    The difference:

    The difference between wasps, honey bees and yellowjackets

    The difference between wasps, honey bees and yellowjackets

    Share and Enjoy


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    34 Responses to How to: Meat Bee Trap

    1. jocelyne marchand
      June 14, 2012 at 7:03 am

      ”Wasps vs. Bees

      Jump to Table Below
      by Jaime Pawelek and Rollin Coville

      Wasps are the insects that most people can relate to seeing at their picnics, especially yellow jackets. While they can be irritating at times, they do serve an important ecological function. They are predators of many insects, especially crop eating insects. Parasitic wasps are beneficial because they can be released into agricultural systems and they serve as natural biocontrol of insect pest populations. They lay their eggs on or inside their host and as the wasp develops it feeds on its’ host. The hosts are usually what we consider to be garden pests like: tomato hornworms, aphids, cabbage worms, armyworms, and strawberry leaf rollers. After the parasitic wasp completes development it emerges as an adult and kills the host.

      Wasps also serve as food for many other species, like birds, and thus contribute to the food chain. Also, because some species visit flowers for nectar they can be inadvertent pollinators. There are hundreds of species of wasps in California, and like bees they are part of the heritage of the land. In the San Francisco Bay Area some of the most common wasps are: yellow-jackets, paper wasps, mud daubers, sand wasps, thread-waisted wasps, and potter wasps.”

      perhaps we should be trapping humans . . .

      • June 14, 2012 at 7:11 am

        Thanks for your comment and info,…yes, I agree that all insects are beneficial, but I also believe that my safety and that of my family while we eat outdoors merits a precaution like this. And yes, if humans were bothering me while I ate my outdoor meal, I might trap them, too,… temporarily. :-)
        Also notice this article is about yellowjackets, not wasps. ~~ Sue

    2. Vicki
      June 14, 2012 at 7:04 am

      Always thinking too much is never enough, I went gigantic (sans oil). BOUGHT a child sized pool, pushed to edge of fir tree, filled pool, tied a fish into the tree, and sat back. OMG!!!!!!!! What I collected was SO gross I could not handle it!!!!!! AND the plug was in the middle!!!!! My mother finally couldn’t stand to see it (when she came to visit) – so SHE braved the wade to the middle to pull the plug. Never did THAT again!!

      • Sue Langley
        May 4, 2014 at 5:32 pm

        Vicki, a nightmare, for sure! LOL! ~~ Sue

    3. Robin
      June 14, 2012 at 8:10 am

      I’m with You; Sue! One Sting from a Yellow Jacket or a Wasp and I need to go to an Emergency Room; Really serious. I wish I knew of this Trap, as I’ve been feeding them the Ham for years and never seem to have enough for them. I will try your trick this weekend! Thank You Very Much!

      • June 14, 2012 at 8:16 am

        Robin, been there done that,…to the hospital! Once I did the classic,…took a sip of coffee on a camping trip and got a yellowjacket stinging my tongue! Sounds funny but NOT when it happens to YOU!!! LOL! Everyone sat around watching me until, I felt my throat start to tighten up,…then it was off I went to be pumping full of IV Benedryl! Now THAT’s like having pure caffeine injected. You want to jump out of your skin.

    4. Jeanie
      June 14, 2012 at 8:51 am

      I learned this from my sis in Idaho: she used the big plastic soda bottles, put appx 3″ of water in, with a splash of oil, then she dangled pieces of hot dog, or bacon, etc, dwn inside the bottle by putting a string thru, and hung the bottles by wire or string wound around the very top part, and placed them at different ares around her patio,… it amazed me how many wasp and meat eating bees she caught! then you just toss the bottle!

      • June 14, 2012 at 9:41 am

        Jeanie, that sounds like a good way, too. I like the tossing of the bottle part.

    5. Lisa
      June 14, 2012 at 11:06 am

      I’m with Jocelyn on this one. We have yellow jackets where I live (TX), but haven’t ever had the problem of them swarming us at BBQ time, must be a different species than these “meat bees”. We have a netted tent we bought at WMart that sits over our outdoor eating area to keep us away from the bugs. Can’t help but think about all the produce we have in our grocery stores that comes from CA…and I’m thinking that one day we’ll wish we hadn’t eradicated all of our insects.

      • June 14, 2012 at 11:32 am

        Lisa, thanks for your comment. I do respect your view. These are ground dwelling yellowjackets, vespula vulgaris. We have a huge problem enjoying the patio only steps from our back door here in the Sierra foothills. I do this when the family is planning to eat outdoors during the summer and believe we don’t eradicate all the yellow jackets in our area. The results in the bowl occurred in only an hours time and the insects can get right between your food and your mouth. They are extremely aggressive and have been known to chase away a NJ baseball stadium of spectators,… 70,000 yellowjackets.

        The tent is a great idea and I’m very glad they are not in your area! :-)

    6. Gloria
      June 14, 2012 at 11:25 am

      Point well taken, Jocelyn. Sue, thank you for the wonderful idea! Will definitely try it. :)

      • June 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm

        Thanks, Gloria, there have been lots of good ideas streaming in. And many good points of view!

    7. Sheron
      June 14, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      I use a can of Tuna and a powder cleanser. (A-Jax or Comet ). I mix the cleanser in the tuna and set the can on a tree stump or anywhere away from the area. They take it back to the nest and they all die.

    8. Ken
      June 14, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      I need a black fly, chigger and misquito trap. Ideas??

    9. June 14, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Lemon Grass planted around your home. Mossies don’t like the lemon scent.

    10. MoiMeme
      June 14, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      Sue, Benadryl knocks you out. You probably got some of that, but you likely got steroids for the swelling, which could feel like a large dose of caffeine!

    11. Donna
      June 15, 2012 at 4:05 am

      Benadryl can have an antagonistic effect on some people, particularly children and elderly. It can make them more hyper, nervous, or jumpy. …I see it happen at work and it did to my son

      • June 16, 2012 at 7:36 am

        Thanks, MoiMeme and Donna, I hope to NOT have that experience again. I really dislike taking any drugs entirely. And yes, they do usually give me steroids for allergic reactions and for when I get exposed to poison oak,…another story altogether. Yikes!

    12. Mary J. "Mimi" Ward
      August 24, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      I tried the trap, with some modification. I used a disposable pie tin but the results were great. I live in a wooded area in the High Sierra and this year alone, we’ve had to eradicate 2 nests near our home to protect the kids and others from stumbling into them. So long as the “meat bees” stay away from my house, I will leave then alone. If you’ve never had to fight a wasp for a bite of your sandwich, you couldn’t know how troublesome they can be! Thanks for the tip…I will continue to use it and have shared it with several friends who live nearby.

    13. Judy Ellis
      September 1, 2012 at 10:58 am

      We’re not one that likes to kill these pesky bees, each has it’s own job to do, all in ‘Gods’ plan, but if it’s between me and that bee I’ll do it. While camping in the Sierra’s this week-end there were so many the buzzing sounded like a symphony going on. According to Park Patrol, this happens when there is a light winter, during a drought cycle. I’ve seen it before, we had to pick bees out of our pancake batter. I’ve read all the creative ways to rid our campsite of the bees and we did them all.
      We completely surrounded our campsite with variations of the traps, they all worked. Just don’t open a can of tuna fish. We started eating after the sun went down, breakfast early before the bees got up. It was a small sacrifice for peace. We watched a whole chicken leg get devoured.
      It was educational to say the least.

      • September 1, 2012 at 11:38 am

        Judy, they *are* aggressive, huh? I’ve had them get between me and my bite of food. If there were no people around, it makes you wonder what they’d eat. Are they the vultures of the insect world? They’ve chased us in within moments of serving up food outdoors just steps away from the door. I guess I’m hoping for a colder winter this year, if what you say is true!

    14. September 21, 2012 at 10:30 am

      I just put out a TV microwave dish with a slice of ham over the water & oil. I had 5 meat bees within 20 minutes. I was stung a few years ago, and was very sick. I love nature, but my health is important too. We have more than usual this Fall.

    15. Theresa
      May 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm

      good work!

      • Sue Langley
        May 25, 2013 at 7:41 pm

        Thanks, Theresa,..this has proved to be a very controversial post, but it works! And the earlier you put out the trap the better…

    16. Dan
      July 13, 2013 at 6:39 am

      thanks for the great info I will definitely use it next time we have an issue. we had them in our back yard last year and I was trying to keep my “live and let live” philosophy until a swarm attacked me stinging me multiple times turned out there was a new hive next to my son’s play area, that night I burned the den with a small amount of gas, needless to say they were gone.

      I understand the need for a balance in nature and have followed that philosophy as best I could most of my life, but hurt or threaten my family and friends or the safety of any kids and I guess the law of natural selection and preservation kicks in.
      thanks again.

    17. deb
      May 4, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      I put my just emptied can of cat food out with a little water at the bottom of the can. I place Glad kling wrap on top and make a couple of small holes. they can get in but they can’t get out.

      • Sue Langley
        May 4, 2014 at 5:36 pm

        Great idea,…you don’t have to use a good dish and the glad wrap keeps it all neat. Awesome tip! AND, you can just toss it.

        ~~ Sue

    18. Kari
      June 16, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      Thank goodness I’m made of sturdy stuff, and I don’t go into anaphelactic shock when I’m stung by yellowjackets! I was stung about an hour ago… at least seven stings. It was not fun. Thanks to your web site, I now have two traps in the yard (using plastic bottles), and am producing a few more to be placed in the yard in the morning. … gonna go check the swelling now…. thanks for the excellent information!!!

    19. Inez Berg
      July 22, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      How far do their nests go underground? I was told to put a hose in the nest and drown them, didn’t work. I could hear them buzzing under my feet (scary sound) I filled in the nest with dirt, tamped it down, they just came up in a new spot. Spraying them with poison doesn’t work.

      • Sue Langley
        July 22, 2014 at 10:06 pm

        Wow, Inez, i wouldn’t try to dig up the nest during the day. Maybe in the early morning you could try the boiling water method. Here is a link to a drawing of how far the nest goes down. Scary stuff to try to deal with. Go with the trap shown here. ~~ Sue

        • Inez
          July 23, 2014 at 9:56 pm

          Thank you, the trap worked, actually better than commercial ones I have tried. I wouldn’t dream of doing any digging.

      • Mxolisi
        July 25, 2014 at 2:15 am

        If you can locate the entrance, pour in some gasoline; problem solved! (In my experience.)

    20. Cristy
      September 20, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      I have a huge nest under my beehives. I can’t use any sprays. We put out a piece of meat over a 5gal bucket with water and oil. I had a bunch but something stole the meat during the night. I’ve been working my beehives and when I open the beehive the yellow jackets attack the bees. It’s not a good thing as now my bees are always mad at me. It’s feeding time I need to feed my bees every 5 days. I think I will hang the meat on top of the fence with the bucket right below it. As watering under the bee hive may have closed some of the openings but it didn’t get rid of the yellow jackets.

      • Sue Langley
        September 22, 2014 at 9:15 pm

        Wow, Cristy,…that’s a problem. You could also try pouring boiling water down the nest hole, if you can boil it at the site. Not during the time they buzz around, of course. I found a nest on our place and I’ll add the picture to the end of this article.

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