There is a really fun opportunity for some participatory science this August:

“I could use your help to run a North American pilot test of an inexpensive trap for yellowjackets and hornets.  If  successful it might result in development of a unique long-term survey for this group.
I have been in correspondence with workers in the Czech Republic, Great Britain, and Northwestern North America regarding the use of traps made from plastic drink and soda bottles partially filled with beer or apple juice/cider.  These groups have been successful in trapping a variety of wasps.

We would like to see something similar tested throughout the continent,  this year we would like to get a feel for what species and situations might be most useful prior to do a larger and more statistical rigorous set of trials.  This time of year is when populations of these colonial species are at their height and thus this email to encourage you participation.

So this is where you come in.  We need you to put out a trap(s) around your house, nature center, fields, and woods for 3 weeks and then send us back your “catch.”  We will put everything together and send you back a report.

Here’s what you will need:

  • Beer (The Europeans have standardized on Heineken but for this trial just use whatever is on hand)
  • Apple cider or juice
  • If you want try something else…go right ahead
  • CLEAR Plastic soda or water bottle (take the labels off)
  • String or wire


  1. Put a good 3 inches of beer or cider in the bottom of the bottle
  2. Keep the top of the bottle off
  3. Hang the bottle (from a tree or post) about 3-4 feet off the ground….hang the bottle by the neck.
    Locations could be in any habitat with an emphasis on woodlands (which
    are likely have the highest species richness).
  4. At the end of 3 weeks strain out your sample and mail it in via the following procedure (note the alcohol and vinegar both will preserve the specimens over the 3 weeks).


  1. Rinse specimens under cool water
  2. Put into ziplock bag
  3. Add a very SMALL amount of alcohol, just enough to DAMPEN them (isopropyl is fine).
  4. Add a paper towel to keep any excess alcohol in place
  5. Put that bag into ANOTHER zip lock bag with another paper towel
  6. Put those bags into ANOTHER plastic bag and tie tightly.
  7. Ship in a padded envelope or box to me along with the who, what, where below:

Data needed for each trap:

Your name
Your location (gps, mailing address, description, map)
Date Put Out
Date Taken Down
Email address so we can contact you

That’s it, your ticket to fame is guaranteed, many thanks for the help and participation.

Sam Droege

Mail to:
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
BARC-EAST, BLDG 308, RM 124 10300 Balt. Ave., Beltsville, MD  20705

Sounds like fun!  Sam is a mensch, so give him a hand.

[Thanks to Quinet for the photo of drunken wasps.]

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Hmm, this means I don’t get to drink my cider and beer. I’m going to have to think long and hard about this one.

  2. Would specimens from the NYC area be needed?

  3. I think they are interested in all of North America, as long as you can give some fairly exact location data.

  4. A link to the research paper from the equivalent European study:

    Click to access Beer%20trapping%20Dvorak.pdf

    Another subsequent study concentrated on wasps in open areas – farmland/meadow etc.

  5. I read your Insects + Beer = Science headline and thought that the post was going to be about blacklighting.

  6. I think there are an almost infinite number of entomological activities that would be covered by that post title, Doug :)

  7. You did a post on beer and insects without including this?

    [audio src="" /]

    Lucky for you I’m on hand to catch these mistakes! :)

  8. The wasps want MY beer? Not without a fight! ;)

  9. Those are like instructions for a nightmare to someone with a fatal reaction to stings. The idea of a soda bottle full of “a variety of wasps” makes me want to cry a little.

  10. Ok, Carrie, how about you stay inside and quality test the beer to make sure it’s fresh for the experiment? :D

  11. The thing is, the closest woods to us are adjacent to the school. So the beer is right out. But cider perhaps…

  12. Has Sam gotten in touch with the suction trap network people in the US ( I don’t know if they store their catches but there would be plenty of data there for him. (an example of the work being done on wasps in the British suction traps is here: )

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