There are more than 20,000 different species of wasps and their relatives in existence worldwide, each with a varying diet, some preferring nectar, others living on insects. Adult wasps and larval young have quite different eating habits. The tiny, narrow waist of an adult wasp prohibits it from eating solid food, as it can’t pass through the constricted abdomen. Adult wasps prefer nectar or even the internal juices of caterpillars and other insects. They do not have the sucking mouthparts of a bee and must ingest their food by licking the nectar or other liquid.
Feeding the Young Wasps in the Nest
Many larval wasps eat only meat, brought to them by the adult worker wasps. The adults fly from the nest, seeking insects including spiders, flies, beetles, and others. Grasping them with their jaws, they sting the prey, paralyzing it. Then, they fly back to the nest to feed the immature wasp larvae the fresh kill. Other species of larval wasps feed on regurgitated nectar brought back to the nest by the worker wasps. The adult drinks nectar from plants, honeydew produced by other insects, or internal juices from a caterpillar, then return to the nest where they regurgitate the liquid and feed this to the larvae. An interesting fact about wasp behavior and feeding habits is that the larval wasps also feed the workers. After eating, the larvae produce a highly concentrated, nutritious liquid that the workers lick from the mouths of the larvae.
Solitary Wasp Feeding Behavior
Some wasps are parasitic, laying eggs inside other living insects. The larval wasps then feed within the insect, eventually killing it. Other solitary wasps may bring insects to their nest, placing them with the wasp’s eggs so the young have food as soon as they emerge from the egg.