What Do Hornets Eat? 11 Foods for This Bug

Largest Wasps - European Hornet
© Rytis Bernotas/Shutterstock.com

Written by August Croft

Updated: November 3, 2022

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A commonly feared and hated insect, the hornet is a versatile and capable bug. While this stinging pest seems threatening, it does a surprising number of things for our ecosystems. It also eats a variety of animals and plants.

So, what do hornets eat? Hornets eat tree leaves, sap, bumblebees, and other bugs. They are both herbivores and insectivores, making them omnivorous. They eat a wide variety of other bugs, and have the ability to hunt both night and day. 

But how does a hornet hunt, and what predators might a hornet have while it is trying to find food for its queen? Let’s learn more about this winged insect now.

What Do Hornets Eat?

Hornets eat tree leaves, sap, bumblebees, and other bugs.

©KENPEI / CC BY-SA 3.0 – Original / License

What Does a Hornet Eat?

A hornet eats tree sap, leaves, flies, bees, and more. Their carnivorous nature leads them to consume many other types of bugs, but they are also known to eat many other things as well. 

Hornets have been known to enjoy drinking apple juice from fallen apples. The damage hornets can do depends on the species. Hornets are actually a type of wasp, with 22 recognized species. The most common hornet in North America and Europe is the European hornet, which will feed on bees but isn’t a threat to the hive.

However, other hornet species have a far more voracious appetite. For example, the Asian giant hornet can kill up to 40 bees per minute and can decimate huge numbers of bees in a short period. Scientists continue to worry about reports of invasive Asian giant hornets (often called murder hornets) because of the damage they can do to bees that aren’t equipped to defend themselves in Europe and the Americas.

What Do Hornets Eat? A Complete List of 11 Foods Hornets Eat

What Do Hornets Eat?

A hornet eats tree sap, leaves, flies, bees, and more.


A hornet has been known to eat the following foods:

Hornets are very accomplished predators. However, they are less likely to scavenge for food or bother people at picnics, given their more advanced hunting abilities.

Hornets are most likely to eat other insects than tree matter. They prefer other wasps and bees, and even larger insects such as grasshoppers or crickets. According to Functional Ecology, a hornet’s carrying capacity usually determines what they end up hunting and eating.

Speaking of hunting, let’s learn more about how exactly a hornet kills and eats its prey.

How Does a Hornet Hunt?

Deadliest Animals in America

Hornets are able to carry away their prey.

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Now we’ve answered the question, “what do hornets eat,” it’s time to take a peek at just how they obtain their dinner. A hornet hunts using its venomous stinger and its ability to fly at high speeds. A hornet is one of the most poisonous species of wasps, even to humans. However, contrary to popular belief, hornets are not a very aggressive species of wasp.

A hornet is unique in its ability to carry away its prey. It has a powerful mandible for biting, and it uses its many strong legs to grip its prey and carry it back to its queen. A hornet can carry prey that is bigger than it.

According to Evolution Journal, some species of hornets have barbed stingers that they carry their prey on. This is a terrifying image, especially if you picture whatever bug it is carrying as being incapacitated by venom!

Again, in the grand scheme of wasps, hornets are one of the least aggressive flying, stinging insects, at least for people. They are not interested in picking fights, unless they feel threatened from the get-go.

What Eats Hornets? Common Predators

The hornet has a few common predators, including:

Many animal species that hunt hornets don’t go after the individual flying insects. They often hunt the entire nest, looking for valuable hornet larvae to eat. While this sounds terrifying, this is a common occurrence within many animal species.

According to the Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, woodpeckers were common predators of hornet nests, pecking at the delicate structures for the larvae within. Many other birds also enjoy eating hornets and their young.

Hornet nests are often found in crevices and small spaces. They enjoy protection and protective areas, such as nooks in your home, tree stumps, beneath awnings and more. They are very protective of their nests, and you should avoid them at all costs.

Humans are another predator of hornets, and hornets are even eaten by humans in some locations. However, we primarily kill hornets because they often build their nests in dangerous places. While it isn’t fair to hornets, no one wants a whole hive of hornets to attack them!

Is a Hornet Dangerous to Humans?

What Do Hornets Eat - Hornet Nest

Hornets are most dangerous when their hive is threatened.

©Istvan Csak/Shutterstock.com

A hornet can indeed be dangerous to humans. However, among all species of wasps, hornets tend to be the least confrontational. They are not interested in fighting anything larger than them, unless they feel as if their hive is threatened.

Hornets are among one of the most venomous flying insects around. They can injure humans and other animals with a single sting, and they are not like honeybees where they die after stinging you. 

We mentioned the Asian giant hornet (murder hornet) earlier. These hornets are a very rare and particular species of hornets, but they possess a level of poison that can be very dangerous to humans. While they’re native to Asia, there have been recent cases of them in the United States. Their sting can be quite painful and does result in around 40 deaths per year in Asian countries.

No matter the size of the hornets, the amount of hornet stings matter for your safety. If you happen upon a hornet’s nest and disturb it and anyway, you run the risk of severe injury from multiple stinging hornets.

That is why it is better safe than sorry if you happen to discover any sort of hive while hiking or if you see that hornets have built a nest near your home. Get in touch with a local exterminator, and don’t try to fix this problem yourself!

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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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