Some species of birds, frogs, lizards, bats, spiders, badgers, and hedgehogs are known to eat hornets and wasps. Other creatures like rats, mice, skunks, and raccoons may even brave the nests in order to get at the tasty larvae inside.
However, natural predators are not a viable form of hornet control. They are very unlikely to eat enough of the bugs to eradicate a whole colony, even if you can tempt them into your backyard. The best way to deal with hornets is to avoid them, and to call a pest control expert if you find a nest on your property.
What are hornets?
Hornets are a type of wasp and are closely related to yellow jackets. The key difference is that they are much bigger bugs, growing up to 1.25 inches in length (whereas yellow jackets measure about 0.5 inches).
Hornets don’t sting unless provoked but, when they do, they’re very painful and can cause severe allergic reactions in some people. Having a hornet’s nest on your property can be a big problem, as hornets will aggressively defend their nests. Multiple hornet stings can be especially dangerous, and may even be fatal for children.
Stings aside, having hornets on or near your property isn’t great for pollinators. Hornets are predatory insects and can kill large numbers of bees (and other insects).
What eats hornets?
Hornets may be formidable hunters, but they’re far from the top of the food chain.
Hornets and other wasp species actually have several natural predators, including:
- Some bird species
- The Red-footed Cannibalfly
What eats hornet nests?
Some animals, like rats, mice, skunks, raccoons, weasels, badgers, and wolverines may occasionally attack wasp’s nests to get at the yummy larvae within. The Caracara (AKA the wasp-eating falcon) will also snatch nests to bring them home to their chicks, whose diet is around 77% wasps.
Asian Giant Hornets (AKA ‘murder hornets’)
Asian Giant Hornets are basically monstrous versions of regular hornets (which, let’s face it, are already pretty bad). Whereas regular hornets are usually around 1.25 inches long, Asian Giant Hornets can grow up to 2 inches in length.
Though native to Asia, this gargantuan hornet species has recently found its way into the United States. They were first spotted at the end of 2019 in Washington, and further sightings were also reported in May of this year. With a nickname like ‘murder hornet,’ it’s no wonder the Asian Giant Hornet strikes fear into people’s hearts. Understandably, people are freaking out.
The murder hornet is well known for its excruciating sting, which is said to feel like being ‘stabbed with a red-hot needle.’
Their terrible sting is the product of the murder wasp’s highly potent venom, which is far more toxic than that of most other stinging insects.
Murder hornet victims have reported pain and swelling that lasts for up to two days and, believe it or not, they’re the lucky ones. This is because the sting of the Giant Asian Hornet can be fatal, and the insects are thought to claim 30-50 lives per year in Japan. To be fair, though, most of these are caused by a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) rather than the potency of the venom itself.
Learn more about Asian Giant Hornets in this video by Brew:
What eats Asian Giant Hornets?
Unfortunately, there aren’t many creatures willing to take on the Asian Giant Hornet. Only European Honey Buzzards are thought to prey on Asian Giant Hornets, though their nests may be attacked by other hornet colonies.
And, if you needed any more bad news – the European Honey Buzzard is native to Europe and Southwestern Siberia, so it won’t be much use against murder hornets in North America.
How can you keep yourself safe from hornets?
The good news is that, despite their scary reputation, many experts don’t consider Asian Giant Hornets to be any more deadly than other wasps or bees. Although severe reactions to their stings can be fatal, this is rare and most people will experience nothing more serious than agonizing pain.
Of course, no-one wants that either so it’s best to avoid hornet stings altogether. The following tips can help to prevent stings from hornets, wasps, and bees:
Keep away from nests
Most stinging insects (including murder hornets) won’t attack you without provocation, but they are very protective of their nests. Hornets are most likely to attack you if they think you are threatening the colony so, if you see a nest, give it a wide berth!
If a hornet (or any other stinging insect) lands of you, bumps up against you or buzzes around you, stay calm. Rapid, jerky movements make you look more like a threat to their colony, so they’re way more likely to sting you if you start flapping and swatting. Instead, move on calmly.
If you are being attacked – run!
One hornet sting is usually just painful, but multiple hornet stings can be dangerous, or even deadly. If you blunder into a hornet’s nest and find yourself under attack, run! You should aim to take shelter as quickly as possible, so try to get indoors. Don’t attempt to hide underwater – you are not in a cartoon, and some stinging insects (like Africanized Honey Bees) will wait around until you come up for air.
Encouraging biodiversity in your garden is great for the health of your plants and the wider ecosystem, and may even bring animals that eat hornets into the area.
However, while certain birds and other creatures will eat the occasional hornet, this is not a viable control strategy – especially if you have a hornet’s nest on your property.
Hornet’s nests should be dealt with by a professional so, unless you have the experience, call a pest control expert and stay away from the area in the meantime.
There are several bird, mammal, and reptile species that will eat the occasional hornet, and may even attack their nests. Unfortunately, Giant Asian Hornets are another story – they have very few known natural predators, especially not in the United States where they are a newly-arrived, invasive species.
The good news is that, like other hornets, wasps, and bees, ‘murder hornets’ are very unlikely to sting you without provocation. Most of the time, stinging insects will only attack if you threaten their nest. Stings are usually painful (or, in the case of the Asian Giant Hornet, agonizing) but are highly unlikely to cause serious harm unless you have a severe reaction or are stung multiple times.