We know honey bees make honey, but what about wasps?
Most wasps do not make honey, but a few do including the Mexican honey wasp. Found in the southern United States, Mexico, and South America it produces honey that is very similar to that of the honey bee.
There are around 75,000 recognized species of wasp so it is still very rare for wasps to make honey.
What do we know about the Mexican honey wasp?
As well as Mexico the wasp can also be found in the southern United States and in South America. Its honey is regarded as a delicacy in parts of Mexico. These wasps produce paper nests and live in colonies of up 19,000.
They are especially known for being good pollinators of the avocado. Their hairy bodies are ideal for spreading pollen. The honey they produce is very similar to that produced by bees.
You may not recognize them as wasps as they don’t look like the yellowjackets that we are used to. Their bodies are mostly black with only a few yellow parts. They are also relatively small at around 1/3 of an inch long.
Most wasps do not make honey.
Most wasps, including the European common wasp and yellow-jackets, do not make honey. The fact that they don’t store and make their own supply of food is one reason why wasps rather than bees tend to disturb our picnics.
Without a stored supply of food, wasps need to find external sources of sugar. Interestingly wasp larvae within the nest do secrete a sugary substance that feeds wasps during the spring and summer months but come the fall when the larvae have become wasps, this food source ends.
Wasps that don’t produce honey still love to consume it, and given the opportunity, wasps will raid bees’ nests to steal the honey. This has become a big problem in New Zealand where invasive species of European Wasps attack and steal honey from defenseless bee nests. See this article about wasps’ attraction to honey
Do wasps pollinate?
While most wasps do not make honey that does not mean that they don’t pollinate. Wasps love anything sweet and nectar is no exception. As they go from flower to flower to get the nectar they will pollinate as bees do.
Does wasp honey taste the same as honey from bees?
The wasps making honey are visiting the same types of plants as bees and so the same nectar is used to make bee and wasp honey. It is not surprising then that given that the ingredients are the same the honey itself is not dissimilar.
Is it possible to buy wasp honey?
Since the honey we eat is not taken from wild sources there is not a ready supply of wasp honey. Wasps are more aggressive than honey bees and can sting multiple times. This is reason enough to not keep wasps for their honey.
In the Mexican town of Los Reyes Metzontla, the honey wasp is known as ‘Cuchii’ and its honey is, alongside the wasp larvae, considered a delicacy.