Wasps and bees are often abundant in late summer, and because they look alike, most people confuse wasps with bees. Wasps and bees are so similar that it has caused people to wonder about the possibility of wasps producing honey.
Do wasps make honey? Some species of wasps make honey, although it’s uncommon. One such wasp species that makes honey is the Mexican honey wasp. You can find Mexican honey wasps in North and South America, and they make the honey the same way honey bees do. Additionally, wasps’ honey is edible to humans.
Read on to find out how the Mexican honey wasp makes honey safe for humans to consume, the differences between wasps and honey bees, as well as wasps’ eating habits.
Do Wasps Make Honey?
Mexican honey wasps make honey just like honey bees. They employ almost the same method as bees to produce honey. This means that they’ll pollinate and consume nectar like bees and regurgitate the nectar to process it into honey.
Do Hornets Make Honey?
Hornets do not make honey even though a large portion of their diet is from nectar. Of course, they consume nectar from plants and insects as a source of energy and nutrients, but that doesn’t mean they’ll produce honey as bees do.
Do Wasps Nests Have Honey?
Wasps’ nests do not have honey, nor do they need honey. Most wasp species are solitary insects and only build nests to benefit their offspring. Their young ones need a protein source to grow; therefore, they turn to forage insects to feed them rather than honey.
Mexican Honey Wasp
One species of wasp that’s constantly gaining popularity today is the Mexican honey wasp. The Mexican honey wasp, Brachygastra mellifica, is a species of wasps found in North and South America, from Texas to Nicaragua. Although it is generally considered a species of wasp, it still has 16 sub-species.
Just like honey bees, Mexican honey wasps make honey. They employ almost the same method as bees to produce honey. Using the same honey production method implies that wasps will pollinate and drink nectar in the same way bees do. Then, they regurgitate it to make it into honey.
Bees only consume nectar and pollen from flowers to make honey. However, since pollination is often tricky for the honey wasp, it has to feed on other insects such as the Asian citrus.
Do Wasps Like Honey?
Wasps love honey, especially since they have a sweet tooth. Because wasps are always flying, they burn a lot of energy and constantly need to feed on high-energy sugary substances. They get this sweet liquid from plant nectar in early spring and from honey in late summer.
Do Wasps Pollinate?
As stated earlier, a significant energy source for wasps is nectar, and they often visit flowers searching for this nectar.
So, while wasps pollinate, they are less efficient pollinators because their bodies are less hairy than bees. The smoothness of wasps’ bodies means that they cannot collect and store pollen as well as bees do.
However, some wasp species surpass bees as efficient pollinators in some environments, producing moderate or large amounts of nectar. For example, orchids rely mainly on wasps to pollinate them and may go extinct if wasps cease to exist.
Difference Between Honey Bee and Wasp | Honey Bee vs. Wasp
Most people confuse wasps and bees because they look alike. They have the same body shape with six legs, a head, thorax, and abdomen. They also have two antennas with an exoskeleton.
However, wasps are more aggressive than bees. They have a thinner, more extended, and smoother body. Bees, on the other hand, have hairier bodies to collect and hold pollen. Because wasps’ bodies are smooth, they cannot collect and store pollen as well as bees do.
The inability of wasps to keep pollen makes them resort to other diets like feeding on insects such as flies, caterpillars, grasshoppers, etc.
Next time you’re on a picnic, and you see these intruders, you can identify the difference between wasps and bees from the following:
- Body: Wasps have slender, smooth, and shinier bodies, while bees have rounder and hairier bodies.
- Stingers: Wasps do not lose their stingers after stinging; as a result, they can sting multiple times. Bees, on the other hand, lose their stingers and die on the first try.
- Skin: Wasps have very few hairs, while bees are hairy.
- Food: Wasps feed on pollen and nectar and prey on other insects, ants, and even human food, while bees feed only on pollen and nectar.
Do Wasps Kill Honey Bees?
Wasps and bees will usually forage happily together. However, it is common for wasps to attack bees and kill them.
Wasps kill honey bees because they enjoy sweet foods and often attack bee colonies to steal their honey. Wasps are very lethal to bees, and sometimes, they will bite off the bee’s head and abdomen, taking the thorax back to their own nest to feed it to their larvae.
Do Wasps Steal Honey From Bees?
Wasps and bees usually live peacefully. However, this begins to change by late summer or early autumn. Why does this happen, you ask?
Early in the year, wasps will prey on insects and feed them to their larvae, which need the protein for their bodies to grow. In turn, the larvae produce sugary honeydew for the wasps to consume.
However, wasps will steal honey from honey bees to satisfy their sweet tooth when their larvae eventually hatch and will no longer make the honeydew by late summer/early autumn.
What Do Wasps Eat and Drink?
A wasp’s diet varies according to species.
Generally speaking, wasps eat nectar, fruit, honey, small insects, and plants. Their primary diet is sugary substances such as fruit and honey for the energy they need to move around.
Related: What Do Wasps Eat? | Information & Facts
What Do Hornets Eat?
Most people often confuse hornets and wasps, and an excellent way to tell them apart is from eating habits.
Hornets eat caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, and similar pests, just like wasps do. Hornets also occasionally eat fruit and tree sap; however, they do not have the scavenging behavior of wasps and will not bother human foods as much as wasps.
What Do Paper Wasps Eat?
You may probably wonder what paper wasps eat and if they eat wood to make their nests.
Paper wasps feed on nectar and pollen and hunt insects, such as caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, etc., to nourish their larvae. Wasps also chew on wood to form a pulp which they use to build their nests.
The good thing about paper wasps is that they have ecological benefits because they assist in pollination by feeding on nectar. They also control the pest insect population by feeding insects to their larvae.
What Do Yellowjackets Eat?
Yellowjackets have a diet rich in sugar and carbohydrates, which they get from fruits, flower nectar, and tree sap. Wasps are also carnivorous and eat insects such as spiders and caterpillars.
Additionally, yellowjackets are beneficial to humans because they feed on insects that attack crops such as flies, beetles, cabbage worms, and crickets. Their sweet tooth means that they are often scavenging around garbage cans, cookouts, picnics, carnivals, etc., looking for sugary drinks and leftovers.
How Do Wasps Eat? | Eating Mechanism
You have probably seen a swarm of wasps scavenging around garbage cans, and now you are wondering what do wasps eat, and aside from eating nectar, do wasps eat pollen.
Wasps feed on pollen as well as other insects; they also enjoy human food. They love sweet things, and you will find them hovering around spilled drinks and garbage in search of sweet food remnants.
So, do wasps eat sugar? Wasps will eat fruit juices, whole fruits such as bananas, oranges, apples, soda, etc. Wasps also steal honey from bees and are often successful at stealing this honey because they are bigger and use stingers.
Adult wasps use their shiny, giant stingers to capture their prey and their jaws to chew their prey before feeding it to their young. Wasps do not only consume pollen and nectar. They also feed on a variety of insects and ants.
Common wasps such as the bald-faced hornet and yellow jacket wasp eat insects such as caterpillars, grasshoppers, spiders, and flies.
What Eats Wasps? | Predators
Wasps are also a food source for other animals.
Wasps are prey to other animals, such as the bee-eater, which specializes in eating stinging animals. Another predator to wasps is the honey buzzard, which attacks their nest and eats their larvae. Other predators include praying mantis, dragonflies, centipedes, birds, and bats.
Wasps will often move away from habitats with a high number of predators to avoid being killed.
Most wasps do not make honey. However, there are some species of wasps that do, such as the Mexican honey wasp.
The Mexican honey wasp makes honey almost the same as honey bees, although experts might spot some slight differences. Wasps feed on nectar and pollen. They also prey on other insects to augment their diet because they do not have hairy bodies like bees.
Wasps have shiny sharp stingers, but they will generally leave you alone if you don’t swat at them. You can discourage them by cleaning spilled drinks and covering garbage cans tightly.
List of Sources
Kness A. (2020). Wasps, Surprisingly Cool Pollinators. University of Maryland.
European Wasps Pest Control. (2018). Victoria State Government, Department of Health and Human Services.
Breece, C., Wyns, D., Sagili, R. (2018). Protecting Honey Bees from Yellow Jacket Wasps. Oregon State University.
Bees and Wasps. Washington State Department of Health.