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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


New Lure Attracts Worst Yellowjacket Pests

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
November 10, 1998

LAS VEGAS, Nev., Nov. 10--The first effective lure for the golden paper wasp, the European hornet and some of the nation’s peskiest yellowjacket species has been developed at the Agricultural Research Service. ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Yellowjackets and wasps can be dangerous to workers in fruit orchards during picking season as well as around homes and other public places,” said Peter J. Landolt, the ARS entomologist who developed the lure. As with bees, yellowjacket and wasp stings can cause a potentially dangerous allergic reaction in some people.

The attractant, said Landolt, could provide a means of monitoring and controlling the insects. He is scheduled to present results of his tests with the lure today at the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting in Las Vegas.

Sterling International, Inc., of Veradale, Wash., is working with Landolt under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to develop the best delivery system for the attractant. Landolt estimates that traps with these lures could be available commercially in about a year. He works at the ARS Yakima Agricultural Research Station in Wapato, Wash.

The new lure uses compounds created by bacteria and fungi as byproducts of consuming sugar. These chemicals create an odor desirable to yellowjackets, at least one species of paper wasp and a hornet. ARS has applied for a patent on the lure (application no. 09/041,056).

“Sugar or meat-based baits are effective, but have drawbacks,” Landolt said. “Sugar-based baits also attract beneficial species such as honeybees, and meat rots too quickly to be practical.”

Of the 17 yellowjacket species in the U.S., five are considered to be significant, aggressive pests. Existing synthetic lures attract only one of these species. Landolt’s lure is the first to attract most of them, including the German yellowjacket. It is also the first chemical lure to attract any species of paper wasp.

Aggressive German yellowjackets were first found in the U.S.--in eastern states-- about two decades ago. But they’ve been found in Washington and California only since the 1980’s. “They cause real problems seasonally when they nest and feed in fruit orchards,” Landolt said.

Scientific contact: Peter J. Landolt, ARS Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory, Wapato, Wash., phone (509) 454-6551, fax (509) 454-5646,

Last Modified: 8/22/2017
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