Natural Predators of Honeybees - Wasps

In general terms, wasps are parasites. Many species of wasp inject their eggs inside prey insects, the host will then die as it is eaten from within by the wasp larvae as it grows. Wasps prey on many species of insect as well as honeybees. There are approximately 100,000 species of wasp so there is quite a variation depending on what part of the world they inhabit, but those here in the U.K are omnivorous, meaning they will feed on not just insects but fallen apples, nectar and honey.

A wasp devouring one of our honeybees

We have all experienced wasps being annoying, trying to steal a bite of our sandwich or drink from our bottles of fruit juice whilst having a picnic in the park. Unlike honeybees, wasps do not collect pollen, neither do they produce wax from which to build their nests, wasps build comb for their nests from pulp or mud in sheltered positions.

A wasp decapitating one of our honeybees

Many people confuse wasps with honeybees, they are both capable of giving painful stings, honeybees usually only do so if provoked, whereas wasps are naturally more aggressive however, the sting of a honeybee is barbed, therefore once stung the honeybee is disembowelled and dies, where as a wasp can sting repeatedly without losing its life. Wasps are usually bright yellow in colour and do not have hairs on their bodies or legs whereas honeybees do.

Like honeybees and hornets, if the nest feels under threat each wasp can release a pheromone as an emergency signal to the rest of the nest, causing it to mobilise on mass. This can be dangerous to humans and animals within the immediate area. Killing a wasp, hornet or honeybee near a nest where the pheromone has been released and is therefore detectable on skin or clothing, may also trigger an attack, as can certain fragrances or food flavourings.