Most probably, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of wasps, is their stinger, and the pain they can cause us. Let’s just get to know these creatures, and find out what they eat.
Yellow jacket wasps eating a dead katydid. © Martin LaBar.
A wasp’s diet
First of all, they have an important role in the ecosystem. They control the insect population as every insect has at least one wasp species that feeds upon it. The most widespread wasp types are yellow jackets, paper wasps, potter wasps, and cuckoo wasps. They are small flying insects found all around the world, known for its yellow-black jacket, the main reason why they are confused with bees. Well, they are everything but bees, since they don’t produce honey. While bees make their nests out of wax, wasps can make their own out of wood or even mud. Wasps are very useful to farmers, since they are predators of caterpillars. This way, they prevent the caterpillars from damaging the crops. On the other hand, wasps can cause problems to people since they like building their nests close to people’s houses, this way the possibility of getting stung is even higher.
A female golden hunting wasp dragging a paralyzed spider to its nest. © Tony Wills.
Wasps are omnivorous animals
They eat a number of plants and other insects as well. It prefers the sweeter plants and eats their nectar. It also eats fruits and honey. Sometimes, their meal can consist of a smaller caterpillar and other insects. Their food can vary depending on their age, with baby wasps eating other insects. Grownups search for the food, paralyze them by stinging, after that they take it to their nest for the small ones to eat. Some wasps lay their eggs inside other insects such as spider wasps, such as tarantulas, so when they hatch, they immediately have food. Examples include the tarantula hawk wasp, which is big enough to drag a tarantula back to its nest (watch on YouTube). As adults, wasps live mostly on nectar and fruits, similar to bees. There are some aggressive species of wasp, that invade the bees’ nests and steal their honey. Sometimes, they even drink the blood of the honey bees. They also like to feed on any kind of sweet human food, such as jams and cakes.
Despite their stinger, they are eaten by a large number of animals such as reptiles, birds, and amphibians. Most wasps are solitary. They do more good than harm to people, by controlling the insect population. They are divided into two groups: social and solitary. Social wasp colonies are started each spring by a female, who was fertilized the previous year and survives through winter by hibernating in some place warm.
Solitary wasps don’t form colonies
They use their stinger to hunt, unlike social wasps that use it only for defense. Unlike bees, they are capable of stinging several times in a row. They can give quite a painful sting but it can be treated with ammonia or alcohol. Medical help is advisable if you are stung on the neck or experience extreme pain.
More on bees: Honey bee’s diet.
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