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What do Wasps Eat? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

Wasps are insects that are close relatives of bees. Some deliver a painful sting, but most wasps use their stingers to paralyze their food. So what do wasps like to eat? Keep reading to learn more.

Unwanted Guests for Dinner

Have you ever sat down outside to eat, only to be swarmed by hungry yellow jackets? This can be a common occurrence in late summer and early fall. Don't worry, they aren't trying to eat you. They just want your dinner.

Yellow jackets are a type of wasp, and can often be aggressive when it comes to food. Which other insects are wasps, and what do they eat? Join us as we explore the food preferences of wasps.

What Is a Wasp?

We have already determined that a yellow jacket is one type of wasp. Wasps are insects that are close cousins to bees. They often look similar to bees, with the typical yellow and black coloring. However, there are about 30,000 different species of wasp, including yellow jackets and hornets, and many wasps are not yellow and black. In addition, most wasps use their stingers to catch food rather than stinging people.

Wasps often strike fear into people
Wasp

Visually, you can tell a wasp from a bee by the way its body is shaped. On a wasp, the two body sections called the abdomen and thorax have a very narrow connection. This is often called the ''waist'' of the wasp. Bees do not have a narrow waist. Also, wasps often fly with their legs dangling down.

The Wasp Diet

There are two main types of wasps: social and solitary. Social wasps live together in a large nest and are often the stinging varieties. Yellow jackets are examples of social wasps, and if bothered, they can deliver a painful sting. Solitary wasps are those that just have one female in a colony, raising her young. These are typically the non-stinging variety.

Both types of wasps are carnivores when they're young, meaning they eat other insects. Adults use their stingers to paralyze a variety of other bugs and spiders, catching insects and bringing them to the nest to feed to their young.

For example, many wasps catch and paralyze grasshoppers. They will bring home the grasshoppers for the young to munch on. There is even a type of wasp called a cicada killer. As its name suggests, this wasp brings home cicadas for its kiddos to eat. Cicadas can cause plenty of damage to plants, so these wasps are helpful in controlling cicada populations.

A cicada is a favorite meal of some young wasps
cicada

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