Wasp Trap Instruction Sheet

Nevan Ofsoski

This wasp trap has been developed by Nevan Ofsoski and primary school students from Waikato Waldorf School and Horsham Downs School for the Exscite Trust Wasp Trial. The trap has caught both German wasps, common wasps, flies, fruit flies, mosquitos, moths, earwigs and other insects and is a great way for children to learn about biology and see how science and technology can be used to trap wasps, and flies.

Thanks to trial sponsors the Exscite Trust, Holdfast, DTR, Biolab Limited NZ, New World Rototuna. Thanks to Dr Jacqueline Beggs, Auckland University; Dr Richard Toft, Landcare Research Ltd, Nelson; Scott Bartlam, Wintec; and to Beekeeper Chris Cable for technical assistance with this wasp trial. Sincere thanks to Scott Waite of Harvey Norman Te Rapa and to others for wasp photos.

Wasp Trap Baits

We have found that jam in a water solution works best to attract wasps but 30% sugar solutions also worked well. Brown sugar has worked better than white sugar to attract wasps, maybe because it has a stronger smell than the white sugar? The best fly bait was Whiskas Sardine and Tuna in water, which stinks after a few days and attracts 100’s of flies, but few wasps.

To reduce the smell, the best option is to put the cat food into a loose glad wrap pouch or better still into a small plastic container with a moat of water around it to drown the flies and any wasps caught. If you wanted to try this trap option, the MT (modified trap design where the top of the bottle can be removed and replaced using supplied Holdfast insulation tape is the best option).

Wasp Trap Bait Recipes

  1. Mix 2 level tablespoons of jam (for example Pam’s “Forest Fruits” jam works well) into 200ml of warm water in a measuring jug and stir to dissolve. Pour this jam solution into the wasp trap.
  2. Weigh out 300 grams of either white sugar or brown sugar on a kitchen scale, transfer to a 1 litre measuring jug and make up to 1 litre volume with warm water (this is a 30% weight to volume solution). Stir to dissolve the sugar and then carefully pour 200ml of sugar solution into the wasp trap. Keep the 800ml of this 30% sugar solution (in a clean and labeled 3 litre juice bottle).
  3. Mix 2 level tablespoons of Whiskas “Sardine and Tuna” cat food into 200ml of warm water and pour into the wasp trap. (You may need to spoon larger chunks of cat food into the wasp trap).

Wasp Trap Placement

Hang the wasp trap in a tree or shrub with the base of the trap at least 1.2 m above the ground sothat small children can not reach it. Locate traps well away from outdoor BBQ or play areas. Locate traps where you have a clear view of the trap so that you can avoid approaching the trap if wasps are flying around or sitting on the outside of the wasp trap.

When taking the trap down to examine what it has caught, always take special care and keep the trap upright and cover the trap holes with for example glad wrap or a clear plastic bag (so that any trapped wasps can not get out of the wasp trap). Wear tight disposable rubber gloves for safety.

Ideas to try:

  1. Try 4 level tablespoons jam in 200ml of warm water to see if this works better than 2 tablespoons?
  2. Try different jams or cat food baits to see if they work better.
  3. Try different amounts of cat food baits, for example 4 level tablespoons of cat food in 200ml.
  4. Try higher trap heights to see if they work better and different trap locations in your garden.
  5. Record your results in a notebook and compare with friends to see what they have caught.
  6. Design and build an even better wasp trap (with adult help) and then test it out.
  7. wasp traps with 10mm holes compared to traps with 8 mm holes to see which works best?

Discussion Questions

  1. What does the jam solution produce that helps to attract and kills the wasps?
  2. What type of wasp bait is cat food compared to jam solution & what attracts the wasps?
  3. Could we use wood fibre as a bait to attract wasps?
  4. How do the Chinese Paper wasps differ from German or common wasps? (See ID Guide)
  5. Where are German & common wasp nests found? (usually underground or in trees or roofs).
  6. Where do we get the most wasps in NZ and what sorts of ecological damage do they cause?
  7. Why are clear soft drink bottles safer to use than milk bottles for wasp traps?
  8. Why is it safer to have wasp traps at least 1.2 m above the ground and why should we not place traps where children have their lunches or have food and drinks?
  9. What could we cover the trap entry holes with to make it safer to view the wasp trap?
  10. Why is 2 nights in a deep freeze needed to kill wasps and wouldn’t a few hours work?
  11. What should we do if we are ever stung by a wasp or bee?
  12. Why is it important to remove a bee sting with e.g. the edge of a credit card or blunt knife?


  • Avoid using honey as bait in these wasp traps as honey bees (which are very important to pollinate flowers & make honey for us to eat) may be attracted.
  • If you suspect a wasp nest, keep away from it as wasps will defend the nest if you get too close to it. Call for assistance, e.g.,Beekeeper Chris Cable of Rainbow Honey phone 847 0683 or (027) 474 2904; or the Hamilton City Council; or a pest controller to control the wasp nest.
  • Feed pets indoors as cat food left outside will attract wasps.
  • Keep traps upright when checking them to reduce the chance of trapped wasps getting out.

Tips to help avoid wasp stings

  • Avoid walking barefoot on grass, using scented soaps, perfumes or hair spray or dressing in bright flowery prints. Feed pets indoors as cat food outside may attract wasps. Use sealed rubbish bins.
  • Avoid drinking out of cans of drink at summer and autumn picnics & barbeques, as a wasp may enter the can and sting you in the mouth . Rather pour the can into a clear plastic glass to drink.
  • If stung by a wasp or bee get adult help & remove a bee sting with the edge of an EFTPOS card.

Useful Websites and Sources of Information

  • The Life-size Guide to Insects and Other Land Invetebrates of New Zealand by Andrew Crowe. 1999. Is excellent for wasp and insect identification and basic biology of NZ insects.
  • Landcare Research has many excellent web pages on wasps at: www.landcareresearch.co.nz
  • "Allergic reactions Health Article" at: www.healthline.com/adamcontent/allergic-reactions
  • "Insect Stings" at the KidsHealth website www.KidsHealth.org
  • Which New Zealand Insect? by Andrew Crowe 2002. Excellent on biology and identification.
  • "Hymenoptera: ants, bees and wasps" at: www.ento.csiro.au/education/insects/hymenoptera.html (are very good web pages).
  • Wasps An Account of the Biology and Natural History of Social and Solitary Wasps by J. Philip Spradbery. 1973 and 1984 editions. This is a superb and comprehensive text on wasps.

Did you know?

  • The Japanese Hornet Vespa mandarinia is the biggest wasp in the world and can grow to 5.5cm long or 7.6cm wingspan (thank goodness we don't have this huge wasp in NZ).
  • Wasp nests are made from wood-pulp paper made from fragments of wood chewed with saliva. German nests are grey from sound wood & common nests are brown from dead or rotten wood.
  • The largest Waikato wasp nest was found in a Silverdale gully off Barrie Crescent in early January 2006 and measured 2.4 m high by 1.5 m wide making it one of the largest German wasp nests ever found. This wasp nest was growing up a tall ponga tree fern and faced north west for warmth from the sun. It took Rainbow Honey staff three days to finally kill all of these thousands of wasps.
  • Wasps drink from outdoor swimming pools in summer and may sting you if you swim into them.

Brief Answers to some of the Discussion Questions

  1. As the jam ferments it produces a stronger smell that helps to attract the wasps. Carbon dioxide and alcohol are also produced in fermentation and help to kill trapped wasps.
  2. The smell of the cat food attracts the wasps. Cat food is a protein & jam solution is a sugar bait.
  3. Yes wood fibre could potentially be used as a wasp trap bait.
  4. Nelson Beech Forests, wasps kill native insects and compete with native birds for honeydew.
  5. Clear bottles are safest as you can see what the trap has caught. Clear green bottles are also ok.
  6. Glad wrap or a clear plastic bag could be used to cover the trap entry holes.
  7. To be sure the wasps are all dead, two full nights in a deep freezer is required.
  8. If stung by a wasp or bee get adult help & remove the bee sting with an EFTPOS card edge
  9. By removing the bee’s sting, you remove a lot of the poison from the bee sting.

I would like to hear how your wasp traps work, so please send your feedback to: Nevan Ofsoski, 9 Tuirangi Street, Flagstaff, Hamilton 3210 or Email: nevan@infogen.net.nz