Natural Predators of Wasps – Animals That Eat Wasps
Wasps rank as many things, including hunters, parasites, parasitoids, and pollinators. These feared flying arthropods have both harmful and beneficial effects on the environment, with the former being more prevalent.
Some of the reasons humans avoid or even hate them include:
- Their stinging ability – Wasps don’t use their stinger as bees do. They can sting multiple times in one go, injecting more venom than a honeybee. This can make your encounter with a wasp even more miserable than you might have expected.
- Their feeding behavior – Wasps are scavengers and have a confusing preference for sweet and rotten meat, among other things. They will consume sweets, sweet fruits, spoiled meat and fish, nectar, live and dead insects, etc. This feeding behavior often brings them near human settlements which is bound to result in a clash of characters, to put it mildly.
- Their preference for honey – Everyone loves honey, but especially wasps. This can cause significant problems for bee breeders since wasps don’t stop at eating the honey and leave. They will destroy the honeycomb, kill worker bees, eat the bees’ eggs, and kill the larvae to feed to their grubs. In most cases, the remaining bees will leave the nest to seek safer regions to rebuild.
All these aspects rank the wasp as a pest, despite the fact that its presence will sometimes benefit the environment. Wasps are mediocre pollinators and will kill several pest insects known to destroy crops and bother humans. These include flies, crickets, other wasps, grasshoppers, etc.
The good news is that wasps also have natural predators, which is today’s topic.
Do Wasps Have Any Natural Predators?
Yes, they do, despite their ominous anatomical composition and behavior. In most cases, the wasp appearance will deter any potential predator. The insect’s venom hurts bad, and the insect is capable of inflicting multiple stings within seconds. This is enough to shield it from many insect-eaters.
Some creatures, however, have evolved to consume wasps with ease. Interestingly, each wasp species has specialized predators that will only consume one species of wasp. Which animals eat which wasps depends pretty much on the location and the environmental conditions, helping the wasp killer adapt to the wasp’s lifestyle and behavior.
Animals That Eat Wasps
Let’s see which creatures are the most relevant wasp killers in the wild.
Some species of birds have evolved to see past the wasp’s flashy warnings. They have even worked their way around the insect’s powerful venom-injecting stinger.
Some good examples include:
- Bee-eaters – These are birds belonging to the Meropidae family. These small, colorful, and agile birds have developed a hunting technique called hawking. In essence, they catch insects mid-flight and have specialized in hunting and eating poisonous insects like hornets, bees, and wasps. These birds use their long and sharp beak to squeeze the insects, which forces the venom out and rub them against hard surfaces to remove the stinger.
- Honey buzzards – This bird belongs to the Pernis genus and it’s a notorious insect hunter. However instead of killing adult wasps, this bird shows a predilection towards their larvae. The bird’s thick and almost impenetrable armor of feathers protect it against the wasps’ stingers while it carves through their nest to eat the grubs.
- Roadrunners – Roadrunners are terrifying. These are highly agile birds, capable of reaching ground speeds of up to 27mph thanks to their long, powerful, and flexible legs. They also possess a powerful beak and can even fly, although they spend more time on their ground. These fantastic birds will eat anything, especially poisonous and venomous creatures. Their diet consists of animals like scorpions, centipedes, mammas, rattlesnakes, snails, other birds, large spiders, and, of course, wasps. The roadrunner is the only known predator of the Tarantula Hawk wasp, the black parasitic wasp known to inflict one of the most painful stings in nature.
Other wasp-eating birds include species like mockingbirds, tanagers, starlings, nighthawks, and many more.
There are a variety of wasp-eating mammals to consider, some small, some large, and some huge. These include:
- Black bears – This not-so-gentle giant has developed quite an appetite for honey, thanks to its high caloric content. And, since bears couldn’t really access the bees’ honey deposits without subjecting themselves to some stinging, they had to adapt. They can take the pain if the reward is worth it and, apparently, it’s worth destroying a wasp nest and eating the larvae and eggs inside. They will get some stings in the process, especially around the face, but they don’t mind that much. If things get too heated up, they will simply leave.
- Badgers – These sturdy and adaptable mammals have evolved to eat a variety of dangerous creatures, including rodents, lizards, snakes, and insects. They prefer burrow-dwelling wasp species since they can’t really access airborne nests. Badgers use their powerful claws to unearth underground wasp nests and eat everything they can inside, including adult wasps if possible.
- Weasels – These cute mammals are also notoriously vicious, as they eat birds, rodents, lizards, or snakes. They are also opportunistic eaters and won’t shy away from stealing other animals’ foods or tackling dangerous food sources, like a wasp nest. Just like the badger, they will dig with fervor to unearth wasp burrows and eat the larvae.
Several species of reptiles will eat wasps, such as:
- Gecko – This small but voracious lizard will eat both adult wasps and their larvae. A single gecko can destroy an entire wasp nest the size of a basketball with little-to-no downside for the lizard. That’s because geckos are nocturnal animals and will attack the nest when wasps are dormant and inactive. This will minimize the risk of retaliation and allow the gecko to make the most out of its food incursion.
- Chameleons – These exotic lizards are quite apt at killing and eating bees and wasps with minimal-to-no downsides. They are so proficient in killing adult wasps that no single sting was recorded in the wild. These lizards use their tongue as a projectile to catch insects in mid-air, and the way they hunt and kill their prey minimizes the risk of sting. The chameleon’s mouth can reach from 0 to 60mph in only a hundredth of a second. Once in the mouth, the insect will be instantly crushed before deploying its stinger. It’s a swift death and a fast and juicy meal for the lizard.
- Horned lizards – These are also called horned toads, despite being reptiles, not amphibians. The name comes from their ability to inflate their spiked body, which makes them resemble a fat frog. They will eat an impressive variety of insects, including venomous ones like wasps and bees. Their skin is impervious to stinging and the fact that they swallow their prey instantaneously confuses the insect and covers it in mucus and saliva, removing its ability to sting.
Wasps have a variety of enemies in the insect world as well. These include species like:
- Praying Mantis – The Praying mantis is a notorious insect killer. This carnivorous insect ranks as an ambush predator, capable of consuming a variety of prey, from insects to lizards and even small mammals. The Praying mantis is among the few insect species known to kill and devour murder hornets. Regular wasps are easy snacks. The mantis uses its front legs to hunt, pouncing on its prey and holding it by the thorax while it consumes its head, ensuring a swift death. The insect avoids the stinger by handling the wasp with its long and agile kill-legs.
- Spiders – A variety of spider species will consume wasps, as well as anything small enough to get entangled in their web. Web-building spiders use their web gland to cover the insect in the sticky substance that immobilizes them and neutralizes their ability to sting. The spider will then inject venom into the insect, liquify its organs, and suck it dry. An effective hunting strategy, followed by an even more effective feeding behavior, making spiders top wasp predators.
- Centipedes – Most centipedes are venomous, and all are insectivores. Their diet consists of insects almost exclusively, which has allowed them to find loopholes in many insects’ defense mechanisms. They can easily kill and consume wasps by cutting them in half with their powerful mandibles.
– Other Wasps
Larger wasps will also feed on smaller wasps, provided they belong to different species. Wasps also tend to be cannibalistic and will feed on another group’s larvae, despite belonging to the same species. Adult wasps may eat each other, especially as a result of territorial fights, with the loser becoming the meal.
As a plus, wasps may also fall prey to carnivorous plants like the Venus flytrap and Love Vines. The former uses a mouth-like sticky structure to trap wasps and other insects and liquefy their bodies. Love Vines are more insidious than that. They infiltrate the wasp’s nests and suck the vital fluids out of larvae and even adults if it can catch them.
Although scary and imposing, wasps are not apex predators. Many creatures feed on them, depending on areal distribution. Some wasp killers are so effective that they have been relocated to various areas to counter these pests naturally.
You might want to consider the same if you’ve developed a wasp problem that needs fixing.