Do Wasps Sting Birds? Do Hornets or Bees? a Helpful Guide


I’ve seen birds take wasps down and just leave them for dead, I’ve always thought it must have been that they posed a threat to the bird or its young? But you may have wondered if these wasps are likely to get stung in the process. Well, here’s the definitive guide on whether birds get stung by wasps or not.

First, here’s the quick answer, then we’ll dive into more fascinating detail.

Do Wasps Sting Birds? Yes, wasps sting birds when conflict arises. Generally, a single wasp is not a threat to a bird because of its protective feathers, but if a swarm of aggressive wasps starts attacking the bird, it can be lethal. Wasps attack birds to protect their homes and food.

do wasps and hornets sting birds

Despite being famous for stinging, yellow jackets are actually pretty harmless unless they are provoked or attacking a target – which is usually an insect. Although some say they can be aggressive and bad-tempered just for fun! So let’s find out whether they just go around stinging birds!

Identify a Bird holding a Wasp?

If you see a bird wrestling with a wasp or a hornet, then you should be able to identify it from a bee or bumblebee by its more elongated body. Wasps and hornets have a more pointed lower abdomen and a narrow waist called petiole. They come in a variety of colors from bright yellow and red to metallic blue.

Wasps live in colonies and make their nests with wood fibers, using saliva to break down wood fibers into a soft woody pulp.

Why do wasps sting birds?

Whether a wasp stings a bird or not, depends on the type of wasp and circumstances of the wasp encounter. Most of the time, wasps sting and stinging are likely to happen towards the end of the summer season, which is due to lack of food supply. When there’s not enough food to feed a high population of wasps, they start scavenging for alternate food sources such as fruits, juices, leftover food, and even bird feeders.

Wasps also sting when their nest is disturbed by a creature. To try to defend their nest and any food source they have taken possession of, wasps stings release pheromones to attract the attention of nearby wasps. Once a bird is stung by a wasp near a wasp’s nest, potentially a swarm of buzzing wasps will come to attack the victim and protect the nest.

Finally, and naturally, a wasp will sting in self-defense. If it feels threatened or is attacked it will use whatever it has available to harm the predator.

Wasps are generally just a nuisance for birds

Wasps and birds generally live side by side without issue, each getting on with their tasks. And even if wasps do not sting birds, a bit like humans, the wasp is mainly just an inconvenience to the bird.

For this reason, birds may even build their nests in close proximity to a wasp, hornet, or bees nests. In doing so, it acts as another safeguard against other land-based predators such as squirrels and raccoons, who will not want to come close to the wasp’s nest in case they get attacked. So predation of eggs and young chicks can often be reduced by the presence of a wasp, bee or hornet’s nest

The wasps are not particularly afraid or bothered by most birds, even though some birds favor the flavor of wasp larvae and can easily empty out a test of the delicacies in short order. A few birds eat adult wasps, but not many.

A few small wasps won’t bother birds

Although wasps are feared for their sting and inconvenience – they’re largely harmless to birds unless provoked – which really doesn’t happen. Birds generally do not provoke wasps, but some do choose to eat wasps like the European Bee Eater (see below).

For a bird, an occasional wasp or two is no big deal as they rarely get stung by a wasp, partly because of their thick covering of feathers which can often prevent the stinger from piercing the bird’s skin. But also because birds move too quickly, which barely gives the wasp a chance to sting at all.

Can Wasps kill Birds?

Most of the time, neither birds or wasps will come in to contact enough to make a bird being killed by wasps even a narrow possibility. The circumstances have to be quite unique for this to be the case.

giant hornet

However, if provoked, or caught by surprise and attacked, particularly by large hornets (and especially the Giant Hornets of Asia!), then it is possible for a bird to be stung enough times to be killed by wasps.

For comparison, this image shows an Asian Giant Hornet next to a European honey bee.

image source

We have to remember though that birds are winged and assuming they can shake off their attacker, they are able to escape extremely quickly.

Wasps can sting multiple times without being affected by it at all until they run out of venom, and actually, some wasps do not run out of venom! With their ability to release a pheromone into the air and thereby marking their prey, more wasps might then be attracted and attack in groups.

Do Birds eat Wasps

Yes, there are birds that have evolved to eat mainly wasps. the European Bee Eater, the Red Bearded Bee Eater, and the Blue Bearded Bee Eater are the most common birds known to prey on bees, wasps, and hornets. Bee Eaters prefer honey bees and bumblebees, but they will also eat moths, dragonflies, and other insects.

bee eater
bee eater

Do Bees sting Birds?

Of all the groups, bees are the least likely to sting a bird. Because of the single sting that Bees inject before dying, it’s not something they will do lightly. So you will find that a bee will only sting if its in mortal danger, as it is effectively committing suicide. So they mainly use it only as a deterrent to predators who may try and eat it.

Resources

Ants, Bees, and Wasps of North America (age 9+. From 4th Grade)
Great for taking out into the woods with the kids or on class field trips to help with identifying the bees and wasps in your area.

Honey Keeper Beehive 20 Frame Complete Box Starter Kit Start your own beehive and help save the planet and enrich your garden and wildlife experience! It’s extremely fulfilling and it’s a heavy focus for rangerplanet.com

So Finally

I hope this answer on whether wasps (or hornets) sting birds, could kill birds or even whether birds kills wasps has been helpful for you. Be sure to check out the resources above and start your own bee colony! then report back here to tell us about any bee and bird encounters you see!

Michael

A Certified Ecologist and an Entomologist, Michael has been interested in all aspects of Nature for many years. It's only now he's decided, along with his partner Fran, to begin documenting what he knows.

Recent Posts