Wasps are the mighty predators of the insect kingdom, stinging their way into the record books. But in nature, there are no apex predators. So, what eats wasps? Let’s find out.
If you remember a few lessons from your sixth grade, I’m sure you can recollect the hazy memories of something known as a food cycle.
Every insect, bird, mammal, fish, or creature on our earth has a predator. Nature has an ‘eat or get eaten’ rule, which applies to everyone equally.
Wasps are the big bad predators of the insect kingdom.
Even though the adults are usually nectarivores, these winged insects prey on most smaller creatures like spiders, cockroaches, cicadas, katydids, grasshoppers, crickets, and so on.
They often use these as food for their larvae.
On the other hand, their ability to sting their predators, leaving behind a world of pain, is well-known in the animal kingdom. This often deters others from making wasps their prey.
In fact, some wasps even carry beautiful, bright colors to warn off predators who see them.
Despite all this, there are still an intrepid few who take on and defeat these stinging insects. In this blog, we will talk about a few such creatures that make wasps their meal.
What Are Wasps?
Wasps belong to the suborder Apocrita of the order Hymenoptera. The fence distinguishing ants and bees is frequented by wasps.
They walk this thin line and can be differentiated from both species by their slender body and either predatory or parasitic behavior.
Approximately 30,000 identified species of wasps exist on our planet. All of them have unique shapes, colors, and nesting behaviors.
Wasps are broadly divided into two – those who like their space and those who enjoy living in colonies.
Social wasps like yellowjackets and hornets live in colonies, while solitary wasps like tarantula hawks spend their time building separate nests for themselves.
No matter which subcategory a wasp belongs to, there are many insects, mammals, birds, and reptiles that do not shy away from adding a wasp or two to their meals.
Let’s look at some of them in the next section.
What Eats Them?
Wasps often sport a coat of bright colors to ward off predators, as we said before.
But despite the threat of their poisonous stings looming above, many creatures like insects, invertebrates, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles prey upon them.
Let’s talk about some of these below.
Firstly, members of their own (Vespidae) family, such as the yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets, European hornets, and paper wasps, don’t mind chomping on smaller wasps.
Sometimes, other insects may fight back and eat them too.
For instance, dragonflies, hoverflies, robber flies, centipedes, moths, spiders, and a variety of other arthropods are common wasp predators.
Spiders use special techniques to weave a web appropriate for catching wasps, while robber flies catch them mid-flight and paralyze them before devouring them whole.
Adult dragonflies keep their mouths wide open while flying to eat wasps in mid-air.
These soaring creatures are not scared of the vast expanse of skies, and the threat of stinging wasps is no big deal for them either.
The peach-colored Summer Tanager is a natural predator of the wasps and manages to catch them midair.
It then whacks them on a tree branch before slurping all of it up in one go. These birds also feed on larvae by ripping into wasp nests.
Some birds prefer solitary wasps, while some prefer the other kind. Many birds love munching on the mud dauber (can be found throughout North America.
Honey buzzards often rip wasp nests and carry them away to feed their young with wasps and wasp larvae.
Gray catbirds, warblers, orioles, bluebirds, chipping sparrows, chickadees, blackbirds, and other members of the feather family prey on wasps but stick to fruits, nuts, and berries during the breeding season.
Mammals such as black bears, weasels, badgers, honey badgers, hedgehogs, skunks, raccoons, and mice can gobble up wasps and wasp larvae too.
Badgers are well-known as the primary predators of wasps. It ferociously searches for wasp larvae hidden deep in their nests.
Honey badgers hunt and destroy wasp nests to consume young wasps and larvae.
Rats, weasels, and skunks look for yellow jackets, while the fearsome grizzly bears are known to scoop out wasp larvae for their lunch.
Salamanders, frogs, and toads love dining on a nest full of wasps and their larvae. Toads are immune to their stings and have no qualms about eating them.
Reptiles like lizards and geckos prey on wasps as well. Although these amphibians don’t go out of their way to prey on wasps, they can easily devour them.
Although wasps can help your garden thrive, they can sometimes turn your garden into a prime nesting location too. Carnivorous plants are great at controlling the wasp population in your garden.
To deter hornets from making your garden their home, you can plant a pitcher plant in a pot. Pitcher plants can attract, trap and ingest wasps for nourishment and nutrition.
But be warned, sometimes their smell can be off-putting, and the plants themselves are difficult to tend to.
The Venus Flytrap lures the wasp into its long, trumpet-like tubes and drowns them in juices present at its bottom.
Frequently Asked Questions
What animal will destroy a wasp nest?
Many insects, invertebrates, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles love to devour both wasps and wasp larvae.
But honey badgers destroy wasp nests in their search for young wasps and wasp larvae.
What are wasps afraid of?
Wasps are repulsed by the strong odors of herbs such as Artemisia absinthium (Wormwood), Thymus vulgaris (Thyme), and Mentha spicata (Spearmint).
Moreover, like all animals, wasps are also afraid of their predators. The fiercest predators, like the honey badger, summer tanager, grizzly bears, and red-throated caracara, scare off wasps.
What will instantly kill wasps?
Wasps can be instantly killed by homemade sprays made with dishwashing soap and water.
This domestic solution can block the breathing pores of the wasps and, as a result, instantly kill them.
Toads and praying mantes can also instantly kill wasps.
How long does a wasp live?
The exact lifespan of a wasp varies from species to species, but generally, worker wasps live for 12-22 days, while the queen wasp lives longer.
The queen wasp can live up to a year, even hibernating during winters. The drone wasps, similar to worker wasps, don’t live longer than 20 days.
Wasps are just as helplessly stuck in the cycle of survival as other animals. In this drama, wasps sometimes play the predator and sometimes the prey. On the cycle goes, and with it, the world.
Survival is rarely pretty, and yet wasps do their best to live in a world full of prey and predators.
They are great for your gardens. A world without so many types of wasps would probably result in an uncontrollable garden pest population and minimal pollination.
But these creatures are also quite literally a pain in the neck, so we are grateful that there are others who love to consume them as much as they like hunting smaller prey.
Thank you for reading!
Surprisingly, there are a lot of creatures out there who have the capability to attack and eat wasps, despite all their defence mechanisms.
Go through some of our reader letters, detailing how mantis’, bugs, bee killers and so many other creatures eat these creatures.
Letter 1 – Mantis stalks Paper Wasps
praying mantis / wasps photograph
Came across your site a few weeks ago while trying to identify an American Dagger moth caterpillar that I found crawling across my driveway – and found it to be a wonderful means of procrastination! 🙂 Anyway, I snapped off this shot of a praying mantis stalking some wasps at my uncle’s house this weekend, and I thought I’d share it with you – if it’s good enough for your site, you’re welcome to post it. You could caption it: “pray before you prey”, perhaps. Or “grace before meals”. 🙂 Just as the mantis pounced, though, my batteries ran out, so I couldn’t get any pics of the 20-second battle that ensued, most unfortunately. (The wasps “won”, but the mantis didn’t seem much worse for the wear.)
We would love to post your image of an immature Mantis stalking a colony of Paper Wasps.
Letter 2 – Wheel Bug eats Paper Wasp
Wheel Bug eating a wasp.
I got some good photos today of a wheel bug enjoying its wasp lunch. Here are the two best ones. I hope you enjoy them.
All Assassin Bugs are effective hunters, and Wheel Bugs, probably the largest North American Assassins, can take significantly larger prey. This Polistes Paper Wasp is a good example.
Letter 3 – Bee Killer eating Red Wasp
fly with an attitude!
Looks like a bumblebee but I know better. This robberfly is a resident of my garden what a noble creature it is. I can’t imagine how she (he) captured this red wasp. I live in central Texas (San Marcos) and am curious about just which species this is. Thank you kindly.
Noble is not usually an adjective that we hear attached to an insect, but this Bee Killer, a Robber Fly in the genus Mallophora, is surely befitting the descriptive.
Letter 4 – Hanging Thief eats Polistes Paper Wasp
unknown bug killing wasp
Here is a link to a picture of an unknown bug which is apparently killing the red wasp and maybe impaling it thru the head and sucking the stuff out of the wasp, the wasp was still moving but the critter with him, fly around a little ways, and would land again, as the wasp was heavy from his point of view.
The predator in your photo is a Robber Fly known as a Hanging Thief, and it is eating a Polistes Paper Wasp. Hanging Thieves in the genus Diogmites, get their common name from the way they hang while eating. Notice in your image the Hanging Thief is supporting its entire weight plus the weight of the wasp from just one leg.
Letter 5 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Wasp
I was out on the back porch with my kids when I saw a wasp land on the screen, a minute later I looked up and saw another bug fly up and land on the wasp. I had my camera taking pictures of the kids so I walked outside and snapped a few of the bug with the wasp.. just a moment later it flew off with the wasp. I have no idea exactly what kind of bug this is, as it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it around here. Someone said it might be a dragonfly nymph but the google image search I had didn’t look like it. Any idea what it is?
Our favorite aspect of posting your letter and wonderful photo is that we learned the common name of this Robber Fly. It is a Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes. The unusual composition of the name brings something interesting to question. Generally, when “fly” is tacked onto a word like butterfly or dragonfly, the insect is not a true fly. Crane Fly and Robber Fly would be true flies. This naming is something of an anomaly since the Red Footed Cannibalfly is a Robber Fly, hence a true fly. Your photo is a lovely addition to our Food Chain section.
Letter 6 – Hanging Thief eats Red Wasp
Crane Fly with a hefty meal I suspect?
August 1, 2009
I was at a park and I saw a pair (attached) of flying insects buzz by and so I naturally went over to have a look. I was expecting a mating pair but then I saw this. The blurry picture was while what I suspect is a Crane Fly was grappling for better control of the wasp (also a very windy day). I’m curious, is this indeed a Crane Fly?
Mount Pleasant, SC (near Charleston)
Your predator is a Robber Fly known as a Hanging Thief in the genus Diogmites which may be viewed on BugGuide, and the prey is a Red Wasp, Polistes carolina, which can also be viewed on BugGuide. Hanging Thieves often catch their prey while flying. Hanging Thieves get their common name from their habit of hanging from one leg while eating.
Letter 7 – Bee Killer eats European Paper Wasp
We saw this bug eating a wasp. We’ve never seen one before. What is it?
August 15, 2009
We saw this bug eating a wasp. We’ve never seen one before. What is it?
Your letter to the bugman Please help us identify this ugly unusual furry bug preying on a wasp. We live in the Los Angeles area and this was in our back yard.
Sincerely, Daniel and Jill
Los Angeles, CA
Dear Daniel and Jill,
The predator is a Robber Fly known as a Bee Killer, Mallophora fautrix, and the prey is a Golden Paper Wasp, Polistes aurifer.
August 15, 2009
The prey here is the European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominulus.
Thanks for the correction. According to BugGuide: “no other species of Vespidae has mostly orange antennae.”
Letter 8 – Bee Killer eats Wasp
Location: Hawthorne, CA
July 29, 2011
Thank you so much for your time and for the compliment. High praise, indeed. Coincidentally, another of the very bug that led me to your website back in 2008 appeared today as I was harvesting tomatoes. It’s my Mallophora fautrix and it had a nice juicy wasp for lunch.
Hi again Anna,
These truly are spectacular Robber Flies, and they deserve the common name of Bee Killers.
Letter 9 – Red Footed Cannibalfly dines on Paper Wasp
Location: Doylestown PA/ Stephens City VA
August 10, 2011 6:31 am
I have what I believe are cicada killer wasps living in my backyard:dirt mounds with tunnels, siting of very large(3 inches) insect like the one in the photo going into said mound. Meanwhile, my neice in VA took a pic that looks exactly like the critter I saw going into the mounds.My questions are: is this a photo on a cicada killer female, and what is going on in this photo?
Signature: Deb Kerns
The behavior you describe is consistent with that of Cicada Killers, however, the predator in the attached photo is a Robber Fly known as a Red Footed Cannibalfly. It is feeding on a Paper Wasp. Red Footed Cannibalflies would not be building underground nests, so despite the striped abdomen, if you compare this predator with this Cicada Killer image from our archives, you will see the apparent differences between the two insects. The Cicada Killer is a much more robust insect. Not having a photo in front of you and trusting your memory might be creating a false similarity between the two species.
Letter 10 – Hanging Thief eats Paper Wasp
Subject: HUGE Wasp??
July 17, 2012 8:31 am
this HUGE wasp-like insect has been hanging around our garage and garden. Is it harmful to humans ,as in, will it sting us? I am allergic to stings and I’m a little nervous to go into the garden! It is eating other insects as this picture shows, and this morning when I went to the garden, it flew up from the garden with another bug in it’s legs. We live in Illinois and today is July 17, 2012.
Signature: Mary G.
The predator in your photo is living up to its common name Hanging Thief. Hanging Thieves are a family of Robber Flies that often hand from a single leg while feeding. The only wasp in your photo it the Paper Wasp that is being eaten by the Hanging Thief. Hanging Thieves often prey upon wasps and bees. We do not know of anyone being bitten by a Hanging Thief, but we imagine they are capable of biting if they are carelessly handled.
Letter 11 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Wasp
Subject: A Dragonfly of some sort?
Location: South Central Pennsylvania
March 16, 2014 7:38 pm
I took this photo in my yard last summer. I cannot find any photos anywhere that look similar.
I never saw one before. Hoping you can help to identify it.
Though this is a highly off season posting, we are nonetheless thrilled to post your spectacular image of one of the most adept insect predators in North America, the Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes, a species of Giant Robber Fly. Your individual appears to be feeding on a Wasp. According to BugGuide: “Preys on large flying insects. Has been reported to attack Ruby-throated Hummingbirds” with a link to Hilton Pond.
Letter 12 – Red-Footed Cannibalfly eats Paper Wasp
Subject: red footed
July 26, 2014 2:49 pm
Does this thing bite or sting humans?
Signature: freaked out
Dear freaked out,
Though the Red-Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes, is a very adept hunter capable of taking stinging wasps like this Paper Wasp on the wing, they are not aggressive towards humans. With that said, if a human ever tried to capture a Red-Footed Cannibalfly or other large Robber Fly with bare hands, a bite may result.
Letter 13 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Paper Wasp
Subject: Looks to be a Red-footed Cannibalfly
Location: Franklin, TN (Nashville area)
August 11, 2014 1:32 pm
We’re looking for a confirmation on this being a robber fly. Your site was soo helpful in both researching what we saw out our front door and learning more about the bug in question.
This guy was about 3 cm in length and “snacking” on a wasp.
Our 3 and 5 yr old were fighting for the best position to watch this guy through a window. Question – how bad would a bite from this guy be to a small kid? And, is it okay to hang out around them as they protect our air space?
We agree that this is a Red Footed Cannibalfly, and it appears to be eating a Paper Wasp in the genus Polistes (See BugGuide). We believe a bite from a Red Footed Cannibalfly would be painful, but otherwise present no lasting effects, however we should qualify that that we believe the chances of being bitten are at about 0% unless a person decided to try to catch a Red Footed Cannibalfly by hand. They are not aggressive towards humans, and if provoked, they would most likely just fly off. Handling them is a totally different matter.
Letter 14 – Paper Wasp Attacked by Fungus
Subject: Wasp of some kind
Location: North Carolina
October 18, 2015 7:12 am
Hey bugman , just wondering what type of bug is this??
This insect is a Paper Wasp in the genus Polistes, however, its appearance has been altered by a fungus infection that eventually killed the wasp. This is, to the best of our knowledge, the only image we have on our site of a Paper Wasp consumed by fungus, but we do have images of a Tarantula attacked by Fungus, Cellar Spiders with Fungus Infections and a Raspy Cricket with a Fungus Infection. Here is an interesting article from National Geographic on Mind Control Fungus and there is also a National Geographic image of a wasp infested with fungus.
Letter 15 – Belzebul Bee-Eater eats Red Wasp in Texas
Subject: What’s this bug?
Location: Grey Forest, Texas
November 8, 2015 11:28 am
We live near San Antonio, Texas and have seen this fellow a couple of times. He behaves somewhat like a robber fly, but I could not find a robber fly that looks like him. He is very hairy and quite large, as you can see in comparison to the red wasp. Red wasps are about an inch and a half long. He is quite noisy and slow in flight.
Signature: Dylan Tobe
This impressive Robber Fly is a Belzebul Bee-Eater, Mallophora leschenaulti, a magnificent predator that is capable of catching on wing and eating large stinging insects. We are very proud of some images in our archives of the courtship activity of Belzebul Bee Eaters. We are also noting that your images indicate they were taken in August, and not in November.
Dear Daniel: Thank you for responding so quickly. Yes, correct, we took the picture this summer, but just found your site today. Dylan
Now that you found us, you should visit more often.
Letter 16 – Paper Wasp with Fungus Infection
Subject: Hairy wasp
Location: Gulf Shores, AL
January 28, 2016 7:59 am
We found this wasp under some lantana while we were weeding the garden. It was already dead and laying in the leaf litter. It appears to have long “hairs” that grew all over its body. Can you tell us what kind of wasp this is?
Found is Gulf Shores, AL. on 1/28/16
Signature: Gulf State Park
This is a Paper Wasp and it is being “devoured” by Fungus. Many living insects are attacked by Fungus and they eventually die. Dead insects in damp locations might also be broken down by Fungus. This BugGuide image identifies the Cordyceps fungus.
Thank you so much for the quick reply. I thought it was just a normal paper wasp, but I had never seen anything quite like that! I thought that it maybe had roots growing out of it. Thank you again!
Letter 17 – Pair of Luna Moths
Subject: Found this on my sisters doorstep
Location: Newport news va
April 24, 2016 8:13 am
I need help. My sister found this on her doorstep yesterday.
Thanks for sending these great images of a pair of Luna Moths. The male is the individual on the left with the more feathery antennae. Like other Giant Silkmoths, Luna Moths do not feed as adults, and when a female emerges, she has only a few days to mate and lay eggs. She releases pheromones, and the male is able to detect her presence, often from many miles away, because his antennae are sensory organs that can sense the pheromones.
Thank you for your response. I really do appreciate it. Have a great day
Letter 18 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Wasp
Subject: Demon Insect?!
Location: United States
September 2, 2016 2:01 pm
It’s huge, at least 4.5 inches long, it looks like a dragonfly mixed with a wasp with a fluffy mane, it’s obviously carnivorous because it was just chilling on my porch eating up a wasp.
This is one of the Giant Robber Flies in the genus Promachus, and we suspect it might be a Red Footed Cannibalfly. We also believe your size estimate is an exaggeration.
Letter 19 – Mantis after being eaten by Wasp
Subject: Wasp eating Mantis
Geographic location of the bug: Dayton, Ohio
Time: 07:10 PM EDT
This mantis has been hanging out on our flag pole for the last 2 days. He is alive, but has been letting a wasp land on his tail for long periods at a time. Now the mantis’s tail is chewed up and half gone. Why would the mantis let the wasp do that?
How you want your letter signed: Mike
We wish you could provide an image of the Wasp. Generally, when wasps prey upon other insects, it is to feed their young. We have not heard of a situation where a wasp returns to its prey repeatedly without killing it.
Letter 20 – Bee Assassin eats Wasp in Costa Rica
Subject: Bee Assassin and its prey.
Geographic location of the bug: Costa Rica
Time: 07:19 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I took this photo documenting a VERY bad day for a wasp on my farm.
How you want your letter signed: Len Greene
Hi again Len,
Thanks for sending us your gorgeous image of a Bee Assassin with its prey. We believe it is Apiomeris vexillarius, a species already in our extensive archives. It is an excellent addition to our Food Chain tag. For some crazy reason, it has been over five months since our last addition to that tag.
Letter 21 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Paper Wasp
Subject: Flying insect
Geographic location of the bug: Coastal North Carolina
Time: 08:12 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: A large wasp landed on my window screen and out of nowhere this thing landed and grabbed it! Never seen anything like it before. It’s huge! What is it?
How you want your letter signed: DD
Letter 22 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Wasp
Subject: What’s this bee, hornet, wasp?
Geographic location of the bug: Southwestern pa. South of Pittsburgh
Time: 10:40 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: At a local playground South of Pittsburgh pa. This thing was on the sign. The larger bug was between 1 and 1.25 inches long not including legs. It appeared to be eating/mating with a “normal” sized bee/wasp. Is this one of those “murder hornets”? I haven’t heard of them in this area yet… Or is this just some large wasp… Thanks for any info.
How you want your letter signed: The Robe
Dear The Robe,
This is neither a Bee, nor a hornet nor a wasp. It is a Red Footed Cannibalfly, a predatory Robber Fly that feeds on large flying insects, including bee, hornets and wasps.