Summer is in full swing, and you may have noticed more bees and wasps outside. While they look similar, bees and wasps are different insects with different behaviours. So do these flying stingers get along, or are they enemies? Let’s look at the complicated relationship between bees and wasps.
Do Bees and Wasps Get Along?
Bees and wasps don’t get along. They are competing insects that will fight over food sources and nesting sites. However, direct conflict between them is rare.
Bees and wasps generally ignore each other when food is plentiful. But when resources are scarce, they become aggressive and territorial. Bees and wasps need sugars from flowers and plants. Bees and wasps will fight to protect their foraging areas if blossoms are in short supply.
The nesting habits of bees and wasps also bring them into conflict. Bees and wasps build nests in small cavities like holes in trees or walls. With limited real estate, they are forced to compete for nesting space. Bees and wasps will defend their hives and nests from each other with stinging attacks.
So while bees and wasps aren’t mortal enemies, competition over food and shelter does cause tension and skirmishes between them. Their relationship is uneasy as they avoid one another until resources become limited.
Do Wasps Attack Bee Hives?
Yes, some wasps will attack and raid bee hives. Wasps are carnivores and will eat bee larvae and pupae from the hive. This robbing of bee colonies is most common with yellowjackets, hornets, and paper wasps. These aggressive wasps will launch full-on assaults on weak or vulnerable bee hives.
Raiding wasps will hover near the entrance of a bee hive, waiting for an opportunity. Guard bees try to defend the hive by swarming and stinging the wasps. But the relentless wasps fight through the bee patrols to pillage the hive’s nursery chambers. They chew through wax comb cells to get bee larvae and pupae, which they carry off as nutritious protein.
Bee colonies weakened by disease, pests, or food shortages are most susceptible to wasp attacks. Strong, healthy hives can usually deter wasp raiders with their defences. But bee colonies under stress have trouble fending off determined hornets and yellowjackets who crave their brood as food.
Wasps That Kill Bees
Certain wasp species are especially threatening to honey bees. Here are some of the main wasps that kill bees:
The beewolf wasp is a cunning bee predator. It digs burrows in sandy soil and uses the holes to stash paralyzed bees. The female wasp goes out and hunts down honey bees.
She stings and paralyzes them with her venom, then carries them back to her burrow. She lays an egg on the paralyzed bee so her larva can feed on the fresh meat when it hatches. The beewolf wasp is a vicious enemy that can devastate local bee populations.
Yellow Jacket Wasp
Yellow jackets are highly aggressive wasps that frequently raid bee hives. They swarm in by the dozens to ransack bee colonies and steal larvae. Yellow jackets have powerful mandibles that allow them to chew through wood and wax comb.
They cause chaos when they attack as bees frantically try to repel them. Yellow jacket wasps can quickly destroy weak bee hives and decimate bee numbers.
Cuckoo wasps are parasitic insects that lay their eggs in bee nests. The young cuckoo wasps feed on the pollen stores, edging out the bee larvae. Cuckoo wasps sneak their eggs into the nests of solitary bees, and some species even kill the host egg or larva before taking its place. Cuckoo wasps don’t directly kill adult bees, but their parasitic habits significantly damage bee reproduction.
Bees and Wasps Are Not the Best of Friends
So there you have it bees and wasps are not friendly neighbours. They compete for food and nesting areas which causes conflict. Some wasp species are outright predators of bees, raiding hives and killing bee broods.
While bees have defences against wasp attacks, certain wasps like the beewolf and yellow jacket can overwhelm and destroy colonies. The tricky cuckoo wasp also parasitizes bee nests.
Bees and wasps do not mix well due to their differing lifestyles and food needs. So while you may see them visiting the same flowers, these insect cousins are not comrades.