What Do Wasps Eat?

two wasps eating grapes off of the vine
When biting into grapes, wasps leave traces of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae which kick starts the fermentation in the fruit that will later will be used for wine

Wasps mainly want to feast on nectar or hunt insects and invertebrates for their young, but they don’t bite or hunt humans or large animals to feed young. Wasps enjoy drinking alcohol due to its high sugar content, and just like humans, they can get drunk too. Most homeowners are scared of wasps, but they are beneficial for controlling invasive pest species and aiding in the pollination of local plants.

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    What Do Wasps Eat?

    Each wasp’s diet can differ, depending on the species and their life stage. Adult parasitic wasps will primarily eat nectar from flowers or fruits. Non-parasitic wasps are predators and scavengers. They generally feed on dead animals, or hunt insects, arachnids and invertebrates including crickets, aphids, beetles, spiders, and caterpillars.

    They eat their prey themselves or bring some back to the hive to feed growing larvae. They may also use the body of another creature as a host to lay and hatch eggs. The host’s body feeds the larvae before they emerge, killing the insect. 

    How Long Can Wasps Live Without Food?

    Depending on the species, current weather, colony ranking, and age of a wasp, wasps can live from a few days for up to a few weeks without food. When they do eat, they mostly consume nectar and high protein foods such as meat to survive. The younger wasps may need to eat a lot more than the older adults in order for them to survive. 

    Wasp larvae do not eat nectar as adults do. Instead, they consume the scavenged pieces of meat that the workers bring into the hive. Once they consume this meat, the young wasps regurgitate the food, which produces a sugary liquid the adult wasps consume. 

    two yellow wasps eating an apple
    Wasps love sugary food including fruits

    Are Wasps Attracted to Human Food?

    Some wasps are attracted to the protein in food. This means if there is any meat sitting outside, a swarm of wasps might approach it. They may even hover over garbage bins with any scraps of meat inside. Yellowjackets may be less afraid of humans and a bit more “social.” They will likely swarm towards food-collecting substances as they go. 

    What Are Wasps’ Favourite Foods?

    Food can help attract wasps in order to control pest populations. Wasps can feed on the following:

    Fruit Carrion
    Honey Tree Sap
    Nectar Insects

    Some researchers would consider these foods as wasps’ favourites. However, it can be hard to know what a real favourite food of a wasp is. Unlike humans, they can not be selective about the food they enjoy.

    Are Wasps Carnivores?

    Although a wasp’s “favourite” food may be considered nectar and anything sweet, they do eat other things. Some wasps can be considered omnivores because they do feed on other meat and plants. Some wasps will even eat their own kind. In the larval stage, they only eat meat and the adult must kill insects, arachnids, and invertebrates to feed them.

    yellow jacket wasp eating raw meat
    Wasp feeding on raw meat

    How Do Wasps Hunt for Food?

    Most wasps will use their stingers to stun their prey, once that step is complete they will tear them into pieces to make it easier to carry back to the nest. They often hunt by sight, spotting something, stinging it, dragging it off, tearing it up, and then letting the young eat the kill. Despite the need to feed meat to larvae, wasps will never predate humans or other large animals, unless it’s carrion.

    Can Wasps Get Drunk?

    Wasps may swarm around wine or beers that are left outdoors. Like humans, wasps can become intoxicated from drinking wine or beer. Alcohol is a toxin that affects most living things, including wasps. Due to their size, just one small taste will get a wasp “drunk.” 

    Alcohol has different effects on wasps than other organisms, but it can increase aggression. An intoxicated wasp is more hostile and irritable, increasing the likelihood of a sting. 

    When Are Drunk Wasps Common?

    Wasps are attracted to wine or beer outside, likely because of the sugar content. It’s more common to find intoxicated wasps in outdoor settings that involve humans consuming alcoholic beverages, especially when partially empty glasses, cans, and bottles are left in the open. 

    Because of the risk of stings, humans should take caution when consuming alcohol outdoors. Drinks and food should be cleared quickly once finished, and covers for plates, bowls, and glasses can prevent wasps from accessing the food and drink. The scent can still attract wasps, however.

    wasps on the top of a beer bottle

    Why Are Pollen and Nectar Important to Adult Wasps?

    Most adult wasps prefer consuming nectar from flowers. They have very long tongues to reach difficult places that other bees may not be able to access. During this process, they may also pick up pollen, which they can then spread to other flowers. Because of this, wasps can be good passive pollinators.

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