Do Hornets Eat Meat (Are They Carnivores)?

Hornets are carnivorous insects that feed on other insects, spiders, and sometimes small vertebrates. Hornets are predators that use their stingers to kill their prey.

Hornets are opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever insects they can find. In the wild, they mainly eat bees, wasps, and flies. Their diet changes between seasons, as different food types become more abundant.

Hornets are predatory insects, related to the yellowjacket, that occur throughout the United States and southern Canada.

Hornets are carnivorous insects that live in trees. They are related to wasps and bees, and like them, they have a stinger. Hornets are the largest members of the wasp family.

They look like large wasps and they live and hunt alone, unlike the yellow jackets and paper wasps that live together in colonies. They are easily distinguished from yellow jackets and paper wasps by their longer, thicker midsection.

Are Hornets Considered Predators?

Yes! Hornets are beneficial predators that prey on many insect pests. They prey on other insects, including stinkbugs, caterpillars, and flies, and even on spiders, scorpions, and centipedes in some habitats. They also prey on peaceful herbivorous honeybees and can sometimes leave behind a massacre near the beehive.

Hornets have a very efficient digestive system that allows them to extract all the nutrients from their prey. This makes them an important part of the ecosystem since they help to recycle nutrients back into the environment via the decomposers that eat them when they die.

Some of the biggest hornet species in the US are the Bald-faced Hornets (although they are actually not true hornets but yellowjackets!). Baldfaced hornets feed on insects, tree sap, fruit, and garbage.

When taking a close look, it is not hard to see where the baldfaced hornet got its name from!

The baldfaced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) is 2 to 3 inches long. It is black with white markings on its face, and it may have orange markings, as well.

Baldfaced hornets construct their nests in trees or shrubs. The nest of baldfaced hornets consists of multiple hanging combs, or segments, made of paper-like material. Each comb contains one to five cells, which house the larvae. The hive can contain up to 3,000 individuals!

If you are interested, you can read much more about the types of hornets found in the US, and about their nests in my recent post.

Why are Hornets Important for the Ecosystem?

The hornet is an important animal in the ecosystem because it is a predator of many other animals. Hornets are also important pollinators and help to spread pollen from one plant to another.

Hornets are important for the ecosystem especially because they help to control the population of other insects. They do this by eating them as part of their diet. Hornets also eat spiders, which helps to keep the population of spiders in check. In addition, hornets eat tree sap, which helps to keep trees healthy.

They may also be quite disruptive to the ecosystem when they prey on, and eradicate, colonies of more beneficial insects such as honey bees as is unfortuneatly often observed.

Are Hornets Carnivores, Herbivores or Omnivores?

Hornets are mostly carnivores, because they primarily eat other living animals.

Hornets eat insects and other arthropods, like spiders and ticks. It is very rare that hornets feed on plants or fruit.

A hornet can take on quite large prey such as this preying mantis being eaten by an adult hornet here.

But the queen hornet will often supplement with plant material and sometimes pollen and plant sap as well.

Is a Hornet a Producer, Consumer or Decomposer?

A hornet is a consumer because it eats other living things. It is tertiary consumer as it also eats other predatory animals.

Can a Hornet be Considered Decomposers?

No, hornets are not considered decomposers because they mainly eat living animals. Bacteria and fungi are the real decomposers out there!

Are Hornets Scavengers?

Yes! Hornets will scavenge for dead insects and even larger dead birds, reptiles, and mammals. They do, however, prefer to eat living prey.

Where are Hornets in the Food Chain?

Hornets are tertiary consumers because they eat other animals that eat other animals. Therefore they are at the 3rd trophic level of the energy pyramid, placing them somewhere in the middle of the food chain.

While most bees and wasps are herbivores or omnivorous, hornets are primarily carnivores.

Are Hornets Autotrophs or Heterotrophs?

Hornets are heterotrophs because they eat other living organisms.

Do Hornets have any natural predators?

Hornets, like many insects, have a number of natural predators, such as frogs, lizards, birds, racoons, and larger spiders. A weak hornet may also be attracted by ants or other hornets!

A european hornet is being eaten by ants!

Hornets can actually also eat other hornets, but usually only the larvae, but sometimes they go for the queens of another colony.

The worker hornets, which are the only hornets you have probably seen, usually eat insects and can therefore easily eat smaller hornet species or their larvae.  

Conclusion

In this post I have looked into the details of hornet’s diets and how these pack hunters are determined predators.

Hornet’s are expert predators, hunting live prey rather than scavenging on the remains of other, dead animals. They hunt a wide variety of creatures from insects to spiders and even small lizards!

As hornets hunt live prey, they have an amazing ability to be able to locate and catch their targets.

They are extremely successful predators but are still quite vulnerable as humans take more of their habitat (forests etc.), which may have consequences for the ecosystem as a whole.

Hornets eat other insects, such as flies, beetles, moths and caterpillars. They also eat spiders. Hornets are especially fond of tree sap, which they use to make their nests.

The hornet’s saliva contains enzymes that kill bacteria, so they may be classed as decomposers. However, the enzymes in hornet saliva are optimized for breaking down other insects, not bacteria.