• How to: Meat Bee Trap

    by  • August 4, 2010 • How to, Wildlife • 58 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 yellowjacketsA reader tries it out:

    Kirk Willis  The trap has only been outside for 20 minutes and look at the results

    Kirk Willis The trap has only been outside for 20 minutes and look at the results


    Kirk Willis Not even 2 hours later! Ewwwwww

    Kirk Willis Not even 2 hours later! Ewwwwww


    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.

    58 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

      • Luh Key Duk
        April 12, 2015 at 7:54 am

        Trapping humans…………………………………..kinda reminds me of the old old song:
        Reuban, Reuban, I’ve been thinking
        What a great world it would be
        If the girls were all transported
        Far beyond the northern sea.

        Let me know when you find a way to do this. lol

        • kath
          April 18, 2015 at 1:11 am

          Ok so what do u do if u live in a complex?

          • Sue Langley
            April 18, 2015 at 7:28 am

            If you’re bothered in your housing complex with yellowjackets, why not use the same method? Set the bowl out on an outdoor surface about an hour before your bbq…

      • Bilbo
        April 15, 2016 at 1:18 pm

        Jocelyn Marchand, your social justice posturing is ridiculous. Eradicating yellow jackets is never going to be an issue. Yellowjackets are not in the slightest bit threatened, a species of special concern or vulnerable. They thrive in all environments and where people are concerned their numbers need to be managed.

        So please get off of your high horse and find something worthwhile to worry about.

        • wendy
          July 20, 2016 at 10:13 am

          Wow!, angry much? If it make her feel better to keep her family safe then I think that is far from being on a high horse.

          • Allaiyah
            August 21, 2016 at 3:40 pm

            Sue is the one making the traps to keep her family safe, not Jocelyn.

            Next time read carefully.

      • Dian Price
        August 26, 2016 at 2:40 pm

        Yes, I trap them. They are so bad this year that we can’t go outside to do yard work. A sting lasted for four days of throbbing pain. My little dog was stung inside his mouth. They always win because there are so many.

        • Pat Stedman
          August 27, 2016 at 6:57 pm

          Oh Yes Dan: I agree. Having a Birthday BBQ tomorrow and the Meat Bees have been such a bother, and Yes, I have been stung on my foot & it throbbed for days!! This Trap is working AWESOME!! Have 4 traps set and have gotten over 20 meat bees already and so many “hovering”
          Thank You SUE LANGLEY for your Helpfulness!!
          Pat From Colfax, CA

    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! 🙂

      • Kathryn
        April 21, 2016 at 9:05 pm

        The meat bees/yellow jackets in our area are not known pollinators. They are aggressive, territorial and persistent. If you step on a nest, RUN and don’t stop because they will swarm you. At an outing on our ranch last summer there were nine of us and every one of us got bit or stung at least once during the day. They eat any type of meat, including road kill, dogfood, human food, they enter your drinks and stings on and around the mouth are common. They swarm around the waters keeping the livestock from drinking, etc. Pretty much, they are Satan.

    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.

        • George
          August 27, 2016 at 2:15 pm

          One year I used gasoline and lit it. Not recommended for slow runners.

          My problem is finding the nests holes.

          Watching where they go at sundown works but you may become there midnight snack.

      • Mxolisi
        July 25, 2014 at 2:15 am

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

        • Katmss
          August 23, 2016 at 10:10 pm

          Instead of toxic gasoline, use bleach or pool chlorine. The gas will kill the meat bees in the nest and dissipate leaving behind no toxins. Yellow jacket nests are everywhere in the foothills, all over the trails in the forests too. I’ve had them chase me into a car a half mile from where they first attacked. There is no risk of lowering their numbers enough to upset the balance of nature if we trap and kill rather than use toxic chemicals.

          • Sue Langley
            September 12, 2016 at 1:39 pm

            Right,…I don’t condone the use of gasoline to any garden soil or soil on the property.

            • Georrge Howry
              September 12, 2016 at 6:23 pm

              I accidentally pored a 1/2 gallon of bleach in to a Vinca flower bed. Only the plants on the edges lived and it took years for the remainder to spread into the middle.

    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.

    21. Tahoe Mama
      September 3, 2015 at 10:12 am

      Thanks for such a well described post on how to handle our Sierra “meat” bees. This August, the meat bees have come out in full force in the Tahoe Basin; definitely a factor of the prolonged drought. They are attracted to our grill, which is out on the deck. They also buzz us when trying eat out on the deck too. In addition, we have a toddler who likes to play outside. I just made up a bowl of water and oil with the only piece of meat in the frig, a slice of bacon! Hopefully the sacrifice of the bacon will be well worth it. Within a few minutes I had one meat bee “drowned”. Keeping my fingers crossed that I catch a lot more.

      On another note, do you have a problem with voles in your garden? They eat everything that I plant, especially this time of year, late summer – early fall.

      • Sue Langley
        September 3, 2015 at 10:55 am

        Dear “Mama”
        Soon you’ll have meat bee soup, I bet. Glad you found this easy method. With the family outdoors eating, it brings out the Mama Bear in all of us!

        No, for some reason we don’t have voles here,..not that I’ve seen or heard about locally. We have plenty of gophers and squirrels.

    22. Gerri
      September 18, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      Is it too late in the season to set out a trap? You mentioned the best time to set trap is spring. I’m renting a home for the month of September in the tahoe area and have seen a fewYJ’s on the deck and near the screen doors. One was hovering around my dog while he was on the deck. Will the trap lureYJ’s closer to my house and create a bigger problem? Or is the idea to set the trap specifically prior to planning to eat outdoors or use the grill in order to reduce the problem? I got stung on my hand while in town the other day and assume it was attracted to the scent of food on my hands as I’d just eaten lunch. All I can say is BIG HUGE OUCH! Now I’m nervous
      about the YJ’s.

      • Tahoe Mama
        September 21, 2015 at 10:12 am

        You can put this type of trap out anytime that the meat bees are out. They have been pretty fierce up in Lake Tahoe since August. We spend a lot of time out on our deck and I’ve been putting these traps out in the morning, which seems to help by dinner time when we fire the grill up, which always brings the bees in. I’ve found that keeping the trap out daily has really helped reduce the number of meat bees. Make sure to put the trap out of the reach of your dog, mine has gotten into it a few times. Then there are the Tahoe Steller Jays; they will eat the dead bees and sometimes knock the meat lure of. So keep an eye on the trap throughout the day.

    23. Sue Langley
      September 18, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      Gerri, I’d say any time is a good idea when you see them on your deck, especially when you’re going to eat out. I put the trap at the other end of the patio from where we eat about an hour or two before.
      The best time is as early as you see the first ones, whatever month that is.
      The stings are not fun.

    24. Gail Rudow
      October 18, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      I have a problem with what I think are meat bees (I live in the foothills just NE of Stockton, CA). I thought that they were attracted to and eating the fruit that had been damaged by the birds picking at the fruit. This year I got the bird netting up before the birds could do any damage. I was surprised to see that the “meat bees” were attracted to and eating persimmons that were blemish free.

      Does anyone have a similar experience? Last year the bees got to my apples and the persimmons. I also noted that if I eat dinner before going to work outside the bees are attracted to my hands. I am going to try to setup one of the traps tonight

    25. Sue Langley
      October 18, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      Gail, yellow jackets ARE attracted to fruit…also they’re attracted to carbonated beverages, juices, candy, various meats, cakes, vegetables, and ice cream! Yes, I’d put up traps around your trees.

    26. Rich
      April 21, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      I have used Sevin (a serious pesticide) mixed 1 TBS into a can of tuna fish. Place the tin someplace where you are ABSOLUTELY SURE that no cats or other critters can get to it (I set it on the roof of my storage shed). The yellowjackets take this back to the nest and it kills the entire nest. This is definitely NOT an organic approach, but it certainly is effective!

    27. Nancy
      August 12, 2016 at 5:47 am

      Oddly enough I have yellow jackets in the attic of my house. They are finding their way into my home and have stung 3 people so far and I have killed several. My 4 year old grand daughter with cancer was stung last week. I’m all about the bees as we are gardeners. But this is over, they will die this week end! Not sure how since husband is highly allergic, but I have Epic Pen ready. And will try about anything at this point. Living in fear in your own home is my limit!

    28. Allaiyah
      August 21, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      Yellow jackets nearly ruined the Westwood/Clearcreek town reunion picnic. Too bad the gals in charge didn’t know about these traps. Imagine hundreds of people, each with a hand full of flesh eating wasps inches from their faces.

    29. Michael Peterson
      September 9, 2016 at 10:40 pm

      Just returned from hunting near Ice House/Crystal Basin. Lousy with meat bees. In order to eat our lunch we gave them a can of spam. It took two days for them to devour it all. We were stung nonetheless. Not a bear or deer trace was found between highway 50 and Wright’s Lake. Did see two mountain lions…

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