Wasps and hornets belong to the insect family Vespidae and like bees, they are of the insect order
(in fact, it is believed that bees originally evolved from wasps!).
Wasps (specifically the Common and German wasp) as well as hornets, are predators of bees, and for this reason, they are generally disliked by beekeepers.
During spring and summer is it not unusual for wasps to take honey bees for feeding to their carnivorous larvae - however, it should be said that wasps will happily take dead bees. Honey bee workers die quite naturally, and these bees will be ejected by the colony as it tidies the nest or hive in order to maintain hygiene. However, it has to be said that wasps will also, on occasion, take live bees whilst bees are out foraging and wasps are hunting. We are talking of a relatively small number, and a colony of thousands of honey bees can certainly recover from a small scale wasp attack.
However, it should be said that generally, wasps and hornets are
natural predators, and to some extent, honey bees have developed ways to
ward them off. Honey bees may not always win the battle, however!
New research suggests honeybees send warning signals to predators to hornets that they have been seen!
“An ‘I see you’ prey–predator signal between the Asian honeybee, Apis
cerana, and the hornet, Vespa velutina “– by Ken Tan, Zhenwei Wang, Hua
Li, Shuang Yang, Zongwen Hu, Gerald Kastberger, Benjamin P. Oldroyd -
published February 2012 in Animal Behaviour.
signal involves the guard bees simultaneously vibrating their abodomens
to create a ‘shaking signal’. In effect, what is produced is a
‘Mexican Wave’ of shaking honey bees, which warns the hornet to back
off. If, however, the hornet should land too close to the entrance of
the honey bee hive or nest, about 500 guard bees will pounce on the
hornet, and kill it.
So how do hornets respond to this signal? They retreat! However, it’s not all great for bees, since the hornets then target single bees in flight! Read more.
The two lovely photographs of a hornet on this page were sent by Valerie Ferman, and were taken in France in Autumn 2011.
And what about wasps? It’s down to numbers. A single wasp will be
dealt with by a colony of honey bees very easily, however, if the wasps
outnumber the honey bees, the wasps will attack and kill them.
Some beekeepers make wasp traps in order to protect their bee hives from wasps, however, one of the best forms of protection is prevention. A Waspinator is a device that can deter wasps and hornets, by mimicking a wasp or hornet nest. Some beekeepers have had good success with several, placed nearby the hives. They can be purchased from Amazon.com OR Amazon.co.uk.
Wasp Life cycle
Learn about the fascinating lives of social and solitary wasps.
Wasps are important pollinators - in some cases, they are the exclusive pollinators of some plants. Learn more here.
What should you do if you find a wasps' nest?
Prevent Wasp Stings
How to prevent and treat wasp stings.
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