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It is a true fact that wasps are ecologically important species not only because they pollinate plants and flowers but also avoid pest infestation by preying on a large number of pests and insects.
So, what exactly preys on wasps? Certainly, wasps aren’t apex predators, and there is a definite and exhaustive list of predators of wasps, from insects to animals to even plants.
What are the Natural Predators of Wasps?
Here is a list of all the natural predators of wasps, divided into the following sections:
- Reptiles & Amphibians
- Large Animals
Here is a list of insects that are considered the natural predators of wasps:
Red Footed Cannibalfly
The Red-footed Cannibalfly is a species of Robber Fly, and let us tell you beforehand, it may not have all-that-red foot, but it definitely has the hunting skills to take down prey even larger than itself. Red-footed Cannibalfly is one of the most lethal wasp predators. It also eats other big insects such as grasshoppers, bees, hornets, etc.
The extremely fast wing speed and the fearsome size and leg strength apart from the neurotoxin laced bite and the protein breaking enzymes that liquefy the internal organs of the prey made the Red-footed Cannibalfly one of the strongest predators of wasp and other insects alike.
Praying Mantis are those fearsome-looking green insects that feast on numerous insects, some of which are similar to the mantis in size. Praying Mantis can eat any insect that is manageable to tackle down and kill, including wasps. Wasps, in fact, are one of the favorite meals of Praying Mantis, and they have often been found to chow down on solitary wasps they come across.
Also known as assassin flies, Robber Flies legit ‘assassinate’ wasps and other insects when it comes to predation. While hunting mid-air, they bite the victim and inject them with saliva that is toxic to the prey. The saliva contains a neurotoxin and enzymes that break down protein into simpler forms. This paralyzes the prey and makes them an easy meal. Once the prey is paralyzed, the robber fly will suck the liquidized material from the prey’s body and eventually kill it.
Dragonflies are graceful insects with mesmerizing wings that can grow as long as 7 inches. However, do not be fooled by the elegant appearance of the dragonfly; One of the most successful predators of the world, the dragonfly, is efficient at hunting wasps.
Dragonflies kill wasps, or any other prey for that fact, by adjusting their flight according to their instincts on how the prey will move. Hunting around marshes, ponds, lakes, wetlands, and other similar environments, dragonflies, with their improved visibility and highly flexible flying, can easily kill intimidating and aggressive wasps.
They also occasionally feast on insects such as flies, mosquitoes, bees, and ants.
Hoverflies, probably the most pretentious insects of all, are identical to wasps, hornets, bees, or bumblebees and are considered natural predators of wasp. The larger hoverflies that disguise themselves as huge hornets or the furry bumblebees are usually the hoverfly variants that kill and eat wasps.
Very often, wasps get caught in spider webs, struggling to escape, until they are devoured by the spiders that make an easy meal out of them. The Garden Spider, amongst others, uses its strong sight, sense of vibration, and senses of touch to know what prey is passing by – such as wasps, bees, and butterflies. Then, they either come out of the ambush and attack their prey, stinging it with their venom and paralyzing it, before feasting on them.
Other insects that are natural predators of wasps are:
- Bald-Faced Hornets
A numerous number of birds eat wasps; here, we’ve narrowed it down to the top bird predators of wasps.
Regarded as the wasp-murdering superheroes, these birds have to be on the top of our list of birds that are predators of wasps. Why? Because, while most birds prey on solitary wasps that rarely sting or get aggressive when defending themselves, Red-throated Caracaras attack and even feed on whole nests of wasps.
You read that right!
The Red-throated Caracara are tropical birds found from south of Mexico to Venezuela as well as the Central and South US. They specialize at killing wasps by repeatedly bombarding their nest, which eventually forces the wasps to give up defense and escape. These predatory birds bring in at least 9 to 15 wasp nests (no, not just wasps, but the whole nests), therefore sweeping the trophy as the most lethal predators of social wasps and not just solitary wasps.
Red-throated Caracaras usually hunt in groups (made of 8 birds, generally), and while one or two of them look over the canopy, the rest of them get to killing wasps in the understory. Although their diet mostly consists of bees and wasp-larvae, these birds also depend on fruits and berries.
The dainty painted bird with green plumage and redder-than-blood eyes, the Green Bee-eater is an insectivorous bird that feeds on not only bees (as the name suggests) but also wasps. Apart from bees and wasps, Green Bee-Eaters love to munch on dragonflies, beetles, and butterflies.
In order to avoid being stung by the wasp, these birds crush the wasps mid-air and then return to their perch, smashing the prey on the branches and stems of trees to remove the sting from the insect. This makes the prey (or wasp/bee) edible and also removes the dirt from their body, breaking the exoskeleton.
Tanager (Summer Tanager)
Tanagers come in a wide variety of mesmerizing colors from blue to scarlet, all of them equally beautiful and equally potent in killing wasps. However, the Summer Tanager is a specialist at killing wasps and bees amongst all the Tanager species.
Summer Tanagers have a long and pale bill, and their bodily and wing colors do not contrast a lot as they do for Scarlet Tanagers (species that are often confused with Summer Tanagers). Often making rattling sounds, Summer Tanagers can be found in mixed deciduous and pine forests and riparian corridors of SE US and the western USA, respectively.
Also known as beebirds, Summer Tanagers are primarily insectivorous, feeding mostly on wasps and bees. These predators catch the wasps or bees mid-air, then take them to a perch where they beat the wasp repeatedly against a rough branch. This does two things: firstly, it kills the bee or the wasp, and secondly, it removes their stingers, thus making them edible.
Summer Tanagers often tear through wasp nests to eat their larvae. But first, they harass and kill the wasps guarding the nest in order to access the protein-filled larvae and pupae.
Apart from wasps and bees, Summer Tanagers also eat grubs, cicadas, crickets, spiders, and fruits and berries such as blackberries, mulberries, elderberries, blueberries, pokeweed, bananas, and plantains.
Wasps are mostly preyed upon by the adult sparrows to be fed to the young sparrow that can not fly or hunt just yet. On a general note, sparrows are omnivores feeding on a variety of food, including both animals and plants based food. They occasionally feed on animals like young frogs and lizards. Crabgrass, buckwheat, and ragweed are some of the favorite food that the sparrows enjoy feeding on. Young sparrows are very fond of insects like crickets, wasps, and flies, and the parents make sure to time their reproduction based on the high population of insects.
The bluebird is a medium-sized omnivorous bird that feeds on all varieties of insects, including wasps. They have a cool blue plumage, hence the name bluebird. They spy their prey from a perch and catch them on the ground or when the insect is in flight. Although bluebirds have a huge variety in their diet, they commonly feed on insects like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, moths, termites, wasps, and spiders. During the nesting season, almost 68% of their diet consists of insects, as the young growing birds need a lot of protein.
A Wren is a family of 88 small, chunky, brown passerine birds. These birds have long and dark brown colored bodies, short and rounded wings, down-curved short bills, and cocked tails. They can be found in habitats like suburbs, orchards, open forests, streamside groves, and pine-oak woods. Their diet mainly comprises insects like caterpillars, webworms, mealworms, wasps, and flies. During winter, they feed on fruits, snugs, and snails when the population of insects is less.
These wasp predators are small songbirds that belong to the families like Sylviidae, Parulidae, and Peucedramidae, of the Passeriformes order. These birds are small in size, round-headed with beady eyes along with stripes around the eye. They mostly feed on insects like caterpillars, fliers, wasps, beetles, larvae, and spiders. Warblers are found in habitats with bushes, swamp edges, woods along the edges of the streams, lakes, swamps, and marshes.
Like other insectivorous birds, Orioles feed on insects like wasps, caterpillars, webworms, tent caterpillars, and gypsy moths.
There are more than 30 species of Oriole birds belonging to the Oriolidae family. They are typically black and yellow or orange in color, while some are white. They prefer habitats like open deciduous woodlands, suburban backyards, cottonwoods, and maples.
Nighthawk, a medium-sized nocturnal bird, has cryptic coloration with intricate patterns that makes it difficult to spot them, hence making them one of the top contenders when it comes to wasp-predating birds. They can be seen foraging for aerial insects such as wasps in flight at dawn and dusk, and their identity is best revealed by their vocalization.
They can be easily found in both rural and urban habitats like coastal sand dunes, woodland clearings, plains, open forests, and grasslands. Apart from wasps, nighthawks feed on other insects, including beetles, moths, grasshoppers, and termites.
Starling is a passerine bird that belongs to the Sturnidae. They have a small to medium-sized body, narrow and conical bills with sharp tips, and stout legs with pinkish or greyish-red color. These birds eat almost everything, but they mostly feed on worms, snails, insects like moths, beetles, caterpillars, snails, grasshoppers, earthworms, flies and wasps, fruit, and seeds.
Chickadee birds belong to the tit family of the birds – they are small in size with a black cap and white sides to the face and are potent wasp predators. In summer, insects form a large part of their diet, and in winter, seeds and berries become important, and their spatial memory helps them to relocate the caches where they store food. They are omnivores feeding on invertebrates, berries, seeds, carrion, and on insects like moths, caterpillars, and ants.
The only mammals with the true ability to fly, bats may not be aggressive predators of wasp but will practically eat a solitary wasp if they come across one. Since bats are nocturnal animals, they are highly unlikely to come across wasps, which are insects active during the day. Hence bats have a varied diet that focuses on things other than wasps. The bat’s diet also includes June and cucumber beetles, crickets, moths, sphynx, earthworms, stink bugs, etc.
Remember learning about those intelligent birds that could recognize themselves in the mirror? Yes, those are Magpies. Magpies are omnivorous birds whose main diet consists of small invertebrates and insects such as wasps, caterpillars, spiders, etc.
Although Magpies prey on wasps, their diet changes through seasons, and as winters arrive, they mostly feed on plant-based food such as berries, grains, and fruits.
3.Reptiles & Amphibians
A number of reptiles and amphibians predating on wasps include common lizards and geckos. Here is all about them:
Geckos are one of the primary wasp predators; they pursue adult wasps and feed on them. They also get to the unguarded wasp nest foraging for the wasp larvae inside them. Other than wasps, the insectivorous geckos feed on a variety of insects, including crickets, mealworms, waxworms, superworms, and flies. Small Lizards like geckos live in places with warm climatic conditions and are found throughout the world except for Antarctica. These lizards are well adapted to their habitats like rainforest and deserts; they have also developed physical features to survive in these habitats.
Amphibians like frogs don’t primarily feed on wasps, but they do eat whenever there is an opportunity. If a wasp comes in close vicinity to the frog, the frog catches it by using its long tongue filled with sticky saliva that ensures that the prey doesn’t slip out.
Frogs eat a variety of insects like crickets, mealworms, moths, flies, and caterpillars. Some frogs even feed on tadpoles, and the young tadpoles initially feed on algae and become carnivores as they grow. Frogs live in freshwater habitats like ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers, which keep their skin moist for survival, but some of them have developed adaptations to survive and live in deserts.
The salamanders belong to the group of amphibians, and they have a lizard-like appearance, and their bodies are slender with blunt snouts, short limbs, and a tail. They mostly have cryptic colors to be unnoticeable; some have vivid colors like yellow, orange, and red. The vivid colors signal the toxicity of the salamanders. The aquatic species of salamanders feed on brine shrimp, and bloodworms while the terrestrial species feed on insects like crickets, mealworms, white worms, and wasps.
Toads are the species of frogs with dry and leathery skin, short legs, and large bumps. They mostly have dark-colored skin like dark green, brown, or black, which serves as camouflage and helps them to blend in with the surroundings. Their dark tone is due to the dark pigment melanin present in their skin. They can survive both on land and water; they inhabit areas with dark, open, and moist environments like fields and grasslands. Toads feed on insects, including wasps, crickets, mealworms, and wax worms. Some species also feed on reptiles, small mammals, and amphibians.
Lizards are reptiles with scaly skin, Legs, moveable eyelids, and external ear openings. Their body sizes range from 2cm to 3 meters, weighing around 0.02 ounces to 330 pounds. They live in diverse habitats like deserts, forests, marshes, and rocky areas. Lizards are omnivores feeding on both plants and animals. They feed on a variety of food items which mainly consist of insects like crickets, wasps, flies, mealworms, and silkworms, and some feed on fruits and vegetables.
A number of large invertebrates and large animals prey on wasps; however, since wasps are small in size and do not meet the nutritional requirements of large animals, they are not actively hunted by large invertebrates and animals. Here is a quick list of animals that can be considered natural predators of wasp:
Badgers often dig up and eat ground wasps, not caring about the sting or the other defense mechanisms employed by the wasps to remove the badger from its best.
Apart from wasps, badgers often eat ants, bees (especially bumblebees), and other ground-dwelling insects.
Skunks are stinky mammals that can be considered as one of the mammalian wasp predators. Since skunks are opportunistic feeders, they keep foraging for insects such as wasps, small animals such as mice, shrews, and ground squirrels.
A large part of the skunk’s diet consists of insects (not exactly wasps) that are white grubs, armyworms, wasp/bee larvae, crickets, etc.
Rats, just like skunks, are opportunistic feeders who feed off of anything they can come across. Apart from wasps, rats, in general, feed on grains, nuts, vegetables, etc.
Although voles and mice are the usual prey of a weasel, these efficient carnivores can effectively hunt wasps, birds, rabbits, lemmings and also sneak away bird eggs.
Raccoons are agile omnivorous feeders who can not only cover the grounds but also forage the trees for potential prey and fruits such as berries. If a raccoon comes across a wasp’s nest, it is likely to prey on the guarding wasps and eat their larvae.
Apart from fruits and insects, raccoons feed on amphibians, eggs, crayfish, and even garbage in urban environments.
In the wild, a hedgehog’s diet mainly comprises a wide variety of insects and small mammals such as pinkie mice. Hedgehogs can dig burrows to feed off of ground wasp nests or actively prey on worms, crickets, and gut-loaded insects.
Apart from wasps, hedgehogs mainly feed on insects such as beetles, millipedes, caterpillars, earthworms, etc.
Apart from the animals mentioned above, these too prey on wasps, but not actively:
- Black Bears
Heard of carnivorous plants such as Pitcher Plants and the infamous Venus Fly Trap? Here we talk about the species of pitcher plant that is ‘designed’ or, let’s say, made for predating on Asian wasps or hornets.
Sarracenia is one of the largest pitcher plants which is easy to grow and is a US native plant. The plant has a unique and exotic appearance – it has unusual leaf shapes with incredible colors. Sarracenia has nectar and pheromones to attract insects, specifically Asian wasps and hornets. The plant has almost 15 pitchers in it, and it can attract 50 hornets. The insects crawl inside the plant’s tubular leaves, and then they easily slip and plunge into the pitchers, where they get digested by the plant juices.
Although the plant is native to the US, it seems that the adaptation to trap wasps probably comes from Europe since there are no wasps or hornets in Massachusetts, USA (where the plant was initially grown).