Wasps, Hornets, Yellow Jackets and Other Flying Insects
Keeping wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and other flying insects away from hummingbird feeders is very important. These insects are very aggressive and have been reported to go as far as to aggressively chase and sting hummingbirds. There is even a report in Pasadena California of a hummingbird dying because a wasp head was impaled on the hummingbird's beak, causing the hummingbird to starve to death.
These insects are good for the eco system. They eat other bugs and are eaten by other animals (including humans with yellow jacket stew, and no, we have not tried this). However, they can be highly aggressive. Since they do not lose the stinger like bees do, they can sting many times with just as much pain with each the first sting as the last one. Wasps have been known to attack people attempting to clean out a feeder and can forage up to 1,000 feet away from the insects nest. Best thing to do with these guys is to get rid of them. We have found several ways to do this.
First thing to do about wasps, hornets, and yellow is prevention. Keep tight lids on all garbage cans. Make sure there is no trash, soda cans, or standing water nearby. Keep pet foods, water dishes, and other sources of refined proteins indoors to prevent wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets from finding them. Make sure buildings are properly sealed to prevent nest building.
The next thing to do is to make sure your hummingbird feeder is not leaking. If you live in an area with hot temperatures and have a bottle feeder, the nectar in the bottle can heat up, causing the nectar to expand. When this happens, nectar can leak out of the feeder. Try to use a bowl type feeder like one of the HummZinger feeders if you live in an area where this happens. Also make sure you keep the nectar in the feeder clean and fresh. Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets are more likely to be attracted to a hummingbird feeder with old nectar in it.
Another option is to get a hummingbird feeder with bee guards built in. The hummingbird can reach through to drink nectar, but the bees cannot. The HummZinger feeder has the flower ports covered with a thin membrane that the bees cannot bypass. The nectar is also lower so that the bees are unable to reach the nectar if they got past the membrane. Click on the Feeders section to see more. You might be able to attach a Nectar Guard to your feeder.
Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets and other flying insects are very attracted to the color yellow. Try using a hummingbird feeder that does not have any yellow on the feeder. This might work for a little while; however, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets and can smell the nectar and will return in time.
Moving the hummingbird feeder just a few feet away also works really well. The wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets usually are not smart enough to find the new location. If this does not work, take the hummingbird feeder down for a couple of days. Put it up again once you notice the wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets have stopped coming by to look for it.
One suggestion has been to use a vacuum cleaner to suck up several of the annoying creatures. This will probably work. Make sure the insect does survive so they don't fly back out really mad at the first person they see, which would probably be you.
Wasp and yellow jacket traps are great for cutting down on the populations. If you are trying to trap them in the spring and early summer, use things that are high in protein like wet pet food, tuna, or lunch meat. If you are trying to trap them in late summer and fall, use high sugary stuff like soda, beer, or fruit juice.
There are several commercially available wasp and yellow jack traps out there that work very well. When choosing a trap, try to choose one that is yellow. Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets are attracted to the color yellow. Here are some of our favorite wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets and other flying insect traps.
You can also make a wasp trap out of an old soda or water bottle. First thing you do is cut the bottle in two (2) about one-third (1/3) of the way down the bottle. Then turn the top of the bottle over and put it inside the bottle like a funnel. Staple the two halves together. Use a hole-punch to put two holes on either side of the top of the bottle. Run a string through the holes to create a hanger. Put some bait inside the trap. Hang up the trap. The insects will go in, and cannot find their way out. Toss the trap when it is full.
Another thing to try is to track down the wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets nest. The difference between wasps and hornets and yellow jackets is that wasps and hornets will make their nests up high and yellow jackets will make their nests in the ground. Therefore, different approaches need to be taken for different types of nests.
When working with a nest that is above ground, use Wasp & Hornet Spray. Follow the directions on the can. Plan to spray the nest at night. Usually chilly nights with temperatures below fifty (50) degrees are best. Wear long sleeves and pants. Don't bring a flashlight with you. If there are escapees, the wasps will go toward the light. Spray the nest heavily. Use more than one can if you have to. Keep an eye on the nest for the next few days. You might have to treat the nest again if you still see any wasp or hornet traffic. When winter comes (or you are absolutely sure the entire nest is dead), remove the entire nest.
When working with a nest that is in the ground, use yellow jacket foam. Just like with the wasp spray, follow the directions on the can. Plan to spray the nest at night. Usually chilly nights with temperatures below fifty (50) degrees are best. Wear long sleeves and pants. Don't bring a flashlight with you. If there are escapees, they will go toward the light. Spray the nest heavily. Use more than one can if you have to. If it is safe, fill the hole with rocks and pack it with dirt. Keep an eye on the nest for the next few days. You might have to treat the nest again if you still see any yellow jacket traffic.
You can also try to pour a lot (a lot) of hot boiling water down a yellow jacket hole. Be very careful when doing this as there is a better chance of escape than there is with the foam. Also, use the same precautions as you would when using the foam.
There are some really good attractant traps where wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets will take the food back to the nest with them to share. This will kill the entire colony. It works great if you cannot find the nest or the nest is in a location that cannot be reached. Unfortunately, it can only be used by certified pest control agencies.
When all else fails, call a reputable pest control agency. They have a ton of experience and tools in dealing with this issue.
Don't make an extra feeder just for wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets. It will just make the colony larger and stronger. Bees - yes. Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets - no.
Don't put any oils, Vicks Vapor Rub, Pam Cooking Spray, Duct Tape, Off, Skin-so-soft, or Vaseline on your hummingbird feeder. These may work slightly. However, hummingbirds have a tendency to fly around frantically and bump into feeders quite often. If there is oily stuff or duct tape on the feeder, it can get into the feathers. The hummingbirds will have a hard time getting it off and it's not all that good for them. Plus, most of these items will melt in the heat making goo run all over the place. Please don't use these items.
Keep all forms of insecticides and pesticides away from the hummingbird feeders. Move the feeders if you have to. This stuff is just as bad for hummingbirds as it is for the wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets.