Wasps as Pets

Paper wasps

Left: Paper wasps feed their larvae (look in the open cells) and guard their nest. The cells closed with silk caps contain pupae. Right: An adult wasp rolls a caterpillar into a ball to take back to the nest and feed to the hungry larvae.

Some people like pets that have a level of danger and excitement. Paper wasps fit that criteria. Why paper wasps? Paper wasps are social insects that display a variety of interesting social behaviors. They are not boring.

A nesting site is prepared in advance using a suitable container. A 5 gallon aquarium with a sliding lid will do. The wasps will need a source of cellulose to make paper for the nest, food for the larvae and food for the adults. Wasps are predatory. Caterpillars are perhaps the best source of food. Small crickets can do. The adults feed on nectar. Sugar water (10 percent sucrose) works. However, the dilute solution will mold and must be frequently replaced. Once the materials are assembled, the container is ready to house a colony.

Paper wasp colonies can be relatively easily established by collecting a foundress queen. The best time to do this is early summer when nests are small and defenders are few. Like most insects, wasps require a minimum temperature for their wings to function. Chilling them can render them unable to fly. This allows the nest to be manipulated without interference from the wasp. The nest can be attached to the top of the container. When all is ready, the foundress is released into the container. She will find the nest and the colony is ready to go.

Wasps are capable of learning. They can learn to distinguish between threats and non-threats. In a managed colony, wasps may associate human fingers with availability of food rather than a threat. Pet wasps will feed on sugar solutions from a human finger without stinging. Maculifrons provides the video (below). It is possible to keep wasp colonies without being stung, however, it is always a possibility. People who are highly allergic to wasp stings should not try this at home.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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13 Responses to Wasps as Pets

  1. Nancy says:

    I enjoy reading your blog ! Thanks for a great post !

  2. veroradenl says:

    I found some wasp eggs , can I hatch them and if I can,how do I do it? And afterwards how do I take care of them, if I can hatch them xD

    • Anonymous says:

      They have to grow up in a cell, and if they are workers or males, they will survive no longer than 2 months. If it is a queen, make sure she mates in fall then over-winter her. Next spring, put a box in a container. Once the colony has 4-5 workers, give then access to the wild.

  3. Haniya says:

    Fascinating, how does one make a sugar solution?

  4. Dumb says:

    I caught a queen paper wasp, thank you so much for the article

  5. LOVESWASPS says:

    Thank you so much for this valuable information, most info on the internet is about killing wasps without regard to the joy they can bring to your life. Such a shame!

  6. Ty says:

    I love you, I thought I was the only one who cared for these beautiful insects! I’ve even studied the gestures they display. Ignorantly classified creature by all means.

  7. Ziggy says:

    Outdoor pet wasps – in early summer my curious shepsky knocked down a small paper wasp nest hanging under deck railing – subsequently repositioned nest near original location following https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVZWf63HmtY. 5-6 W\wasps still on nest in mid Oct and peacefully co-existed with dog all summer. That’s limit of my wasp interactions – no plan to try hand feeding. Out curiosity left out some honey mentioned above but it was immediately consumed by yellow jackets.:(

    • jneal says:

      I tried live and let live with paper wasps in my shed. It was ok for a time. Then I got multiple colonies and more aggressive wasps. After a couple of stings I eliminated them before I built up allergies.
      Not surprised that honey attracted yellow jackets. Yellow jackets forage aggressively in Fall to store food for overwintering. People mistake yellow jackets for bees and it gives bees a bad name.

  8. Pingback: Can Wasps Be Pets? – Insect Questions

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