Forget the ants marching one by one—yellowjackets are the real party-crashers when it comes to spoiling picnics, outdoor barbeques and other summer fun where cold beverages and meat are present.
Fortunately, a new trap is available that lures these stinging, sugar-sipping pests to their doom, thanks to attractants developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and commercialized by Sterling International, Inc., of Spokane, Wash. The scientists work for USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
Sold commercially as the RESCUE! W·H·Y Trap (Wasps, Hornets and Yellowjackets), the technology is the successful outcome of a cooperative research and development agreement involving Sterling and the ARS Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory in Wapato, Wash.
In studies there, research leader Peter Landolt isolated two key compounds from fermented molasses to produce an attractant blend that lures not only yellowjackets, but also paper wasps and hornets. ARS holds patents on the attractant and has licensed it to Sterling.
Yellowjackets and paper wasps become especially irksome during the spring and summer, when their foraging intersects with the outdoor activities of winter-weary humans. However, the insects are also considered agricultural pests. In orchards and vineyards, for example, their feeding damages cherries and grapes. They're also a danger to field workers, especially around harvest time.
The blend Landolt developed and tested in collaboration with Sterling President Rod Schneidmiller and R&D Director Qing-He Zhang attracts 12 yellowjacket species, multiple paper wasp species (including Polistes dominulus from Europe) and two kinds of hornets, making it the most comprehensive lure yet.
Sterling's W·H·Y trap is unique in its design, with two compartments. The bottom is baited with an attractant that primarily lures western and southern yellowjackets. The top uses a different attractant blend to lure other yellowjacket species, bald-faced hornets, European hornets and paper wasps.
Once inside, the pests die by drowning or dehydration, depending on the compartment. Beneficial insects including honey bees are not attracted to the traps. W·H·Y traps are available to consumers at retail chains nationwide.