Have you seen a wasp buzzing around your barbecue and wondered what they want?
Wasps are attracted to meat as they feed it to wasp larvae developing in their nests. Wasp larvae have mouth parts that can eat solid foods, but fully developed wasps can only consume food in liquid form through tube-like appendages called a proboscis. Wasps can suck the body fluids from their prey.
let’s take a closer look at wasps and their meat eating habits.
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Do wasps eat meat?
Wasp larvae need protein and eat meat brought to them by worker wasps. The wasps hunt and kill other insects such as bees, caterpillars, and flies. They use their sting to incapacitate and kill their prey. They then use their mandibles (claw-like) to cut up the prey and return it to the wasp nest as food for the larvae.
Wasps will use their mandibles to cut small pieces of meat from our food if the opportunity presents itself. The adult wasps can not eat this solid food but the wasp larvae will.
The wasps themselves will consume a sugary substance secreted by the larvae. So, the wasps are mostly surviving on the sugary substance, not the meat itself.
The mandibles are used for defending and cutting. Mandibles, while connected to the mouthparts, are actually evolved from legs and are much more akin to claws than jaws.
Wasps have tube-like mouthparts that are used for sucking their foods known as a proboscis. That’s why wasps are especially attracted to sugary drinks. Wasps can suck body fluids from their prey.
What insects do wasps prey on?
Wasps have an important role in controlling insect numbers. They primarily consume caterpillars, aphids, and flies but are also known to hunt spiders and bees.
Parasitoidal wasps and food
Solitary wasps are mostly parasitoids so they will lay their eggs inside other creatures as a food source. When the eggs hatch the wasp larvae will eat their way out, literally using the host as a source of food. This means that they do not need to spend so much time preying on insects to feed their young. You are unlikely to find a solitary species of wasp taking meat from your lunch.
One example of a parasitical wasp is the tarantula hawk. It will paralyze a tarantula before inserting its eggs into it. The spider must be big enough to provide enough food to enable the larvae to fully develop as it eats its way out. They have evolved to keep the spider alive for as long as possible to prevent decay while the larvae are still developing. The larvae will even eat the vital organs of the spider last.
Will wasps be less attracted to meat in the fall?
Wasps will be unlikely to be attracted to meat on our tables by the fall as they cannot consume it themselves. The larvae that they were feeding on it would by this time have developed into adult wasps so they no longer need the meat.