What do wasps eat that makes them so valuable? Let’s find out!
What Do Wasps Eat?
Believe it or not, wasp diets are quite varied, thanks to there being an estimated 10,000 species of wasps. Some wasp species are social insects, living in hives or communal nests. Meanwhile there are thousands of solitary wasp species, such as paper wasps.
You can often guess a large part of the diet based on whether it’s a solitary or social wasp species. The former tend to prefer bugs and pollen, while the latter are usually omnivores. But let’s look at some possible food sources and whether or not wasps enjoy them.
Variety in Foods
To give an idea of just how varied the diets of these nuisance pests can be, here are just some of the common foods they consume:
- Insects and their larvae
- Larval wasp salivary secretions
Note that adult wasps don’t actually consume other critters. Instead, they will kill or paralyze their prey to feed to the kids.
What Do Baby Wasps Eat?
As you might have guessed from the previous sentence, baby wasps often have a slightly different diet than adults.
As a general rule, the wasp larvae prefer meat over plant nectar. The meal is provided for them when they hatch, with non-parasitic wasps providing whole or dismembered corpses. When the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the carcasses.
Paper wasps, mud dauber wasps, and many other species are known as parasitic wasps because they lay their eggs on (or even in) live prey.
Common Wasp Diet Questions
We’ve mentioned potential foods in more general terms up until now. The following are frequently asked questions regarding food sources as well as some examples of species that prefer them.
Do Wasps Eat Ants?
Yes, ants make for a tasty snack – both for predator insects and humans.
Of course, some species are more edible than others, but most are fair game to workers and solitary wasps. They’re especially helpful when you have an aphid or mealybug problem, as ants will actively guard these pests from other natural predators.
Do Wasps Eat Bugs?
This is a major part of most wasp diets.
Of course, the term bug can mean just about any creepy crawly.
The most common bugs eaten are insects and smaller arachnids.
In a pinch, it’s entirely possible these critters may turn to a crustacean (such as pill bugs) or try to battle a centipede, but this is highly unlikely.
Do Wasps Eat Caterpillars?
Yes, wasps eat caterpillars. This is one of the reasons farmers are happy to find a social wasp nest around. Not only will the plants get pollinated, but the caterpillar population will be kept under control.
Many solitary species, such as the potters, will paralyze a caterpillar, take it back to the nest, and implant an egg in it. While not as effective as social species, the solitary wasps are a great help in protecting your garden.
Do Wasps Eat Flies?
While crane flies might escape, many other types of flies are easy prey. This is one of the reasons you’ll find them hunting around your garbage bins (but not the only reason).
Do Wasps Eat Fruit?
Sugary foods remind wasps and hornets of nectar, and social species are known to go after overripe or fallen fruit.
Unlike your toddler, the sugar content won’t make these gals hyper. Even better is the fact that they’ll rarely attack underripe or ripe fruit.
Some species, such as the fig wasp, are actually valued for their work pollinating fruit trees. Even if you only have a single fruit tree, they’ll help you build a great harvest in exchange for a bit of the fruit nectar.
Do Wasps Eat Honey?
Sibling rivalry exists even in nature, as proven by how often honey is stolen from overproductive bee hives. While the act of thievery might come as a surprise, the fact that wasps like honey shouldn’t be.
After all, this sugary liquid is simply processed nectar from plants the wasps were likely also harvesting from.
Do Wasps Eat Honeydew?
Piercing pests, such as aphids, drink the sap from your garden plants. Their poop is partially digested sap known as honeydew. This honeydew can attract fungal infections and a variety of pests.
Thankfully, it also attracts wasps, who will clean up the sugary liquid, indirectly protecting your plants in the process.
Do Wasps Eat Human Food?
Remember how we mentioned these critters hanging around your garbage cans? If you happen to leave leftover food in your yard or on the deck, these gals will scavenge some of it.
This is why yellowjackets are such a problem at picnics, as they’ll crawl into open soda cans or land on your food.
Thus, if you don’t want a wasp eating your barbecue, be sure to burn some citronella or have your meal a safe distance from any flowers they might be pollinating.
Do Wasps Eat Mosquitoes?
The answer to this one is a little more difficult. As a general rule, mosquitoes and their larvae aren’t on the menu. However, that’s not to say it never happens.
This is where a lot of confusion can occur, because rare doesn’t mean never, and all it takes is one witness to start a heated debate.
Do Wasps Eat Nectar?
If there’s one thing all types of wasps and hornets have in common, it’s a love of nectar. Adults don’t have the furry coats of bees, so they’re not as effective at carrying pollen.
However, this doesn’t stop them from being some of the most important pollinators in the world.
Yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets may get aggressive, but they’d actually prefer to peacefully harvest nectar from flowers.
Do Wasps Eat Spiders?
Unlike mosquitoes, spiders are a very popular menu item. In fact, paper wasp stings are often the downfall of black widow spiders, who are later eaten alive by the larvae.
Do Wasps Eat Worms?
Let’s face it, this probably happens on occasion if a wasp is visiting your compost pile. However, it’s not a common food for them overall.
Weighing the Benefits and Drawbacks
The vast majority of wasps are quite docile unless threatened, although a few species can be major pains (pun intended).
When you find yourself facing a bug threat to your yard or garden, few allies are more reliable than the humble wasp. Consider planting a pollinator garden to attract these natural predators.
Alternatively, if you have an allergy ore are worried about a social wasp infestation, there are wasp control services out there that will often relocate the nest without having to kill them.