Several yellowjacket species are important pests in both their native habitat and in areas where they are invasive. Traps that contain one or more chemical attractants to lure insects inside are commonly used to combat these yellowjackets in urban environments. Usually, attractants are placed within the trap and combined indiscriminately, though little is known about how this design influences trap attractiveness or efficacy. Here, using the common attractant heptyl butyrate in combination with chicken extract, we demonstrate that spatial partitioning of attractants results in increased capture of the western yellowjacket Vespula pensylvanica
—a widespread pestiferous species. Specifically, we show that partitioning of these attractants results in increased visitation of yellowjackets to a trap while also leading to more individuals entering the trap. Further, we provide evidence that this effect is driven by the ability of heptyl butyrate to function as an attractant to the general location of the trap while also blocking the effects of meat extract as a trap-entering stimulus. Thus, our data challenge the current paradigm of combining attractants inside yellowjacket traps, and suggest that these methods can be improved through the consideration of spatial variables and interactions. Our results not only provide novel insight into the mechanisms of yellowjacket attraction, but are also likely to be applicable to the control of other insects for which attractant-based traps are used.
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