Do Wasps Make Honey? 5 Interesting Ways Wasps Eat


Wasp on Honeycomb Header

While wasps are known for their shiny stingers and paper nests, honey bees are known for making honey. Many people often use the terms “wasps” and “bees” interchangeably and don’t realize just how different the two are.

Yes, certain species of wasps like the Mexican honey wasp do make a type of honey. These wasps only make enough sugary liquid for their own consumption. Yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets, and common wasps consume nectar but do not make typical honey.

Generally, honey is considered food for bees, so naturally, people may think wasps make and consume it too since they’re both so alike. Honeybees get all of their calories from pollen/nectar and in turn, make more honey. While some wasps do make small amounts of honey, they eat very differently from bees. Here are some of the 5 interesting ways that wasps fill their bellies.

1. Certain Species of Wasps Make Honey and Consume it

Basically, here’s how honey is made:

Bees and wasps consume nectar by extracting it from flowers during pollination 1.

Here’s where bees and the majority of wasp species go different ways on the road. Once the nectar is extracted from flowers, pollination happens. Bees then go through a process of regurgitation to create honey.

It’s relatively simple, yet complicated when we’re talking about bees vs. wasps. When people think of bees making honey, they’re most commonly referring to honeybees or bumblebees because they’re both extremely efficient at pollination and honey creation.

Honeybees are the types of insects that beekeepers maintain to produce honey.

Essentially, bees such as the honey bee and bumblebee are known for making honey, whereas wasps are commonly known for one thing: stinging.

While wasps are commonly known for stinging, some species can actually still make honey (like the Mexican honey wasp, for example) 2.

Certain species of wasps like the Mexican honey wasp make honey the same way that bees do. They pollinate and extract nectar from flowers and then go through a process of regurgitation to process the nectar and turn it into honey.

Wasps such as yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets, and common wasps (Found in the UK) do not make typical honey but consume nectar from plants and insects as their main food source.

In regards to all species of wasps, these insects primarily consume nectar and aren’t very efficient at pollination. Wasps do pollinate, but they do so inadvertently.

When bees land on a flower, the pollen sticks to their body as they move from flower to flower. If there isn’t a lot of fur on their body, pollination won’t be as efficient.

Bumblebees have long, prickly hairs (also called fur) covering their entire body that help to pick up honey. Wasps, on the other hand, are lacking a good majority of those hairs, leading to them being less efficient of pollinators.

Since pollination is much less efficient for wasps, they struggle to pollinate as efficiently as bees.

However, wasps still consume nectar, just like bees. They also like to eat something else that bees don’t.

Wasps also like to eat meat.

2. Wasps Consume Meat from Insects

No, they don’t start up a barbeque grill out, but they DO eat insects.

Some of the more commonly found wasps like bald-faced hornets and yellowjackets, consume a variety of field insects. These insects include various species of caterpillars, flies, beetles, spiders, and grasshoppers.

Generally, the adult wasps use their stingers to capture prey and then feed the insects to their young.

Bees such as honeybees or bumblebees rely on purely honey and nectar for their survival and do not target other insects as prey. Wasps also rely primarily on nectar for survival, but a portion of their diet is made up of various insects that they target as prey and then feed to their young.

In the United Kingdom and throughout Europe, the common wasp (also known as the European wasp) has been found to consume grasshoppers as a secondary source of calories in their diet 3.

Mainly, wasps like to target slower-moving insects that are easy prey.

While wasps primarily consume nectar as their primary food source, they make up what they don’t get from nectar with meat and protein from other insects.

By helping to control the insect population and pollinate flowers, wasps are vital to human survival and the agricultural business.

Understandably, it would be difficult for wasps only to get their food from nectar. They’re larger insects and need some source of protein.

They could consume pollen, but wasps generally lack a lot of hairs around their bodies that can help pick up pollen.

As a result, wasps channel their aggression and use it on various species of insects to fill the remainder of their diet and help support their young.

3. Wasps Have Powerful Jaws and Teeth

Wasps have some pretty sharp teeth in the insect world.

They need these jaws to chew through insects that they bring back to their young.

While wasps use their stingers to get their prey, they THEN use their jaws in order to get to eat their food.

Generally, this happens in places where there are a large number of insects, like a farm, garden, or flower patch. Wasps naturally help control insect populations by using these powerful jaws to consume their prey and break it up to bring food back to their larvae.

4.Wasps Consume Nectar for Energy

Yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets, and common wasps get a large portion of their diet from nectar, but they do not make honey.

It’s crazy to think about, but they don’t.

Mosts wasps use nectar as an outside source of energy and nutrients. Nectar is a simple sugar, so it provides the wasp with more energy, whereas pollen provides wasps with protein 4.

Relating this back to the theme of this website, if you seem to have a wasp problem at your home, then you’ll want to take a detailed look around your property.

Are the wasps headed for the flowers on your lawn? They’re more than likely trying to extract nectar out of your flowers for a quick meal. So naturally, if you’re bothered by wasps near your flowers, you may have to reconsider where you plant them.

What’s interesting about wasps is that the adult insects feed on nectar as their primary food source. When they’re going after other insects, they’re generally bringing back food for their young larvae.

Yes, they do eat these insects on occasion, but mainly they are a food source for their young.

5. Wasps Eat Pollen But Can’t Carry it Efficiently

Going a little bit more into this, wasps focus on nectar and insects as their MAIN food supply.

Outside of the Mexican Honey Wasp and several other remote species, most types of wasps don’t have much do with pollen. Wasps such as the bald-faced hornet, yellow jacket, and common wasp lack fur on their bodies that would pick up pollen.

Don’t get me wrong, wasps STILL consume pollen while they’re on a flower (it’s a protein source), but they lack a strong ability to pollinate.

Here’s why:

Basically, bees are COVERED with fur that picks up pollen as they travel flower to flower – which makes pollination.

Most species of wasps have a small amount of fur and don’t pick up pollen.

This lack of fur makes it pretty difficult for the wasps to carry pollen and do anything with it.

If the wasps can’t carry pollen very efficiently, then they are poor pollinators as a result.

For instance, take this side by the side of a honeybee (left) and a yellow jacket (right). See the difference in fur? In comparison to the honeybee, the wasp has practically no fur.

Typically, bees carry pollen a number of ways. One way is that they can carry pollen between both of their front and back legs using tiny hair receptacles called corbiculae. Another is that they use their fur to pick up the pollen.

Due to the excess amount of fur on the bees, they can VERY easily pick up pollen once they land on a flower.

Additionally, bees can also use their legs to carry the pollen back to their hive.

Most species of wasps have very small amounts of fur and are not as efficient at carrying pollen. These wasps still eat pollen for its protein content, but they struggle to carry it.

This isn’t a massive problem for wasps because nectar and insects are their main food sources. The insects DO, however, still eat pollen when they need to.

If wasps for some reason needed to carry pollen (like to carry it to their young), they would have to do so using mostly their legs

However, relying on only the legs is quite inefficient in the long run. The amount of fur is the most important factor for how much pollen a bee can carry. 5).

Wasps have to rely on carrying pollen using the receptacles on their legs. Since they lack a thick coat of fur, they can’t carry a significant amount of pollen (compared to bees) back to their hive.

6. Wasps Love Human Food (Especially Sugar Filled Drinks)

Chances are, you’ve seen a wasp hovering around a garbage can. Maybe, you’ve seen the insect just flying around a thick stain on the ground in a parking lot. What about when you’re outside, drinking a can of soda?

You get the idea. Wasps love and will go for anything sweet, and who can blame them? There are a few things that wasps absolutely love to go for:

Wasps Love to Consume Human Food Such as:

  • Soda or Pop
  • Fruit Juice
  • Whole Fruits
  • Decomposing Garbage
  • Steak/Meat

While that’s a compact list, it’s also pretty broad.

Wasps Like to Eat Sugar from Soda or Pop

If you like to drink soda, make sure you don’t spill any excess around your property. Soda is EXTREMELY high in sugar, which is why it reminds both wasps and bees of the sweet nectar they love so much.

Soda or pop, whatever you call it, is PURE sugar. For instance, a trendy name brand of lemon-lime soda has roughly 33 grams of sugar per 12 ounces can, leading this to be highly desirable for both wasps and bees.

I remember one time when I was in my teens, I was at my aunt’s house sitting in her yard with my family. It was a hot summer day with the sun beating down on us. Luckily, we had a cooler packed with stuff to keep us cool.

I opened up a can of soda from that cooler, and immediately after I opened it, I had what I now know to be a yellowjacket come right up to the can and start to try and land on the lid.

I figured that bees like sweet stuff, but at the time, I didn’t truly understand the correlation to nectar and sugar.

Oh, and apparently, after I pointed out there was a wasp trying to drink my soda, we discovered that there was a multi-layer wasp nest less than 20 feet away under her deck.

No, we did not let them have any more soda.

Wasps Like to Consume Sugar from Fruit Juice

This is essentially the same concept as the soda. If the drink has sugar in it, then both bees and wasps will come after it because of its resemblance to nectar.

Like soda and juice alike, if you end up spilling these on your car during the summer, you will more than likely attract some wasps next to your parked car.

If you have bees around your car, your first step is to clean it up. My friend had a problem during the summer with bees (turned out to be yellowjackets) swarming her car while it was parked in her driveway.

I ended up learning an enormous amount during that situation. I won’t get too into it, but If you’ve got a problem with wasps near your car, you can view some helpful tips I came up with by viewing this article.

Mainly, if there is spilled juice anywhere, both wasps and bees will most definitely be in search of it. The spilled liquid is some of the most accessible food they can get.

Wasps Enjoy Eating Fruits, such as Oranges, Bananas, and Apples

Anything with simple sugar and wasps will swarm and view it as an easy meal. When fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, and berries start to decompose, their scent becomes much more noticeable to insects.

When the sugar in these fruits start to break down, wasps take notice and sense it as an easy meal.

Usually, we eat fruit and then discard it in our gardens, in the woods, or far off in the lawn because it decomposes into the soil and replenishes it.

When we discard the scraps just out in the open, the fruit scraps will certainly attract bees, wasps, and other insects due to decomposition.

If you’re trying to keep wasps away from your property, make sure you’re putting your scraps very far away from your home or put them in a sealed trash can.

Wasps Swarm Around Decomposing Garbage for Food

Garbage rots and the complex sugars and proteins breakdown into more simple substances that are more desirable to bees and wasps.

A lot of the time, wasps are searching for the same things that I mentioned above. Garbage is filled with spilled soda, juice, decomposing fruits, and food.

Additionally, some garbages have meat in them, which wasps may eat or take back to their larvae.

Wasps Like to Eat Steak and Other Meat

Steak and other meat that humans consume is desirable for wasps because its an easy meal that they DON’T have to catch.

Wasps generally have to hunt down insects, but if they see a nice plate of steak or other meat sitting on a plate, they’ll be inclined to search for it.

It’s mostly about availability. The meat is a very easy target for the wasps, which they’ll be able to bring some back to their young if they desire.

7. Wasps Steal Honey From Beehives and Eat it

Yes, wasps are honey thieves.

Wasps and bees alike both absolutely love anything sugar. Just because they can’t make honey doesn’t mean they won’t eat it.

When they eat it, they can’t go and buy a jar of honey from the shelf (that’d be pretty wild, though). Instead, the wasps have to go to a neighboring beehive and take the honey from there.

More often than not, wasps are successful in getting the honey from the hive since they’re bigger than most honey bees and can use their stinger multiple times.

It’s interesting how the wasps steal the honey from the beehives. The insects fly up to a nearby hive and, one by one, attempt to get through the entrance of the hive. If the bees are practiced in this, they’ll have a small entrance where the wasps will have difficulty fitting through.

This small entrance would require fewer bees to defend against the wasps at a time since fewer wasps could get through the area.

References

  1. Bohart, G. E. (1972). Management of wild bees for the pollination of crops. Annual Review of Entomology17(1), 287-312.
  2. Crane, E. (1991). Honey from honeybees and other insects. Ethology Ecology & Evolution3(sup1), 100-105.
  3. Crane, E. (1991). Harris, R. J. (1991). Diet of the wasps Vespula vulgaris and V. germanica in honeydew beech forest of the South Island, New Zealand. New Zealand journal of zoology18(2), 159-169
  4. Szczêsna, T. (2006). Protein content and amino acid composition of bee-collected pollen from selected botanical origins. Journal of Apicultural Science50(2), 81-90.
  5. Willmer, P. G., Bataw, A. A. M., & Hughes, J. P. (1994). The superiority of bumblebees to honeybees as pollinators: insect visits to raspberry flowers. Ecological Entomology19(3), 271-284.

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