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Do Wasps Kill Squirrels?

What human doesn't dread the sting of a wasp? A single wasp sting can cause pain, redness, and swelling that lasts for days. Plus, some humans are allergic to the sting of bees, including wasps, and could experience a life-threatening allergic reaction after a sting. But what about smaller animals like a squirrel? Do wasps kill squirrels?

Wasps Are More Aggressive Than Other Bees

When an animal or human disturbs a wasp nest, wasps swarm and sting their victims multiple times. A squirrel could accidentally encounter a wasp nest and suffer the consequences.

A single wasp sting is unlikely to be fatal to a squirrel but if wasps sting a squirrel multiple times, the risk of death is higher. Due to their smaller size, a squirrel is more likely to die from multiple wasp stings than a human who's larger in size.

Baby Squirrels Would Be Most at Risk

Wasps can kill baby squirrels more easily than adult squirrels. Because of their smaller size, a squirrel's offspring are less likely to survive multiple wasp stings than a larger adult squirrel.

Here's the good news. Wasps don't usually sting unless they or their nest is threatened. Wasps are territorial and will defend their nests. Yet if anyone, human or squirrel, disturbs a wasp nest, the wasps will swarm and, unlike most bees, they can sting multiple times. Each time they sting, they inject venom underneath the skin of the unfortunate human or animal.

Wasps Sting When Their Nest Is Threatened

Wasps don’t set out to sting squirrels but will do so to protect their nests from predators. If provoked, a wasp will sting a human or animal—and the venom from the sting causes significant irritation and pain.

There are cases of humans dying from wasp stings (even those who aren’t allergic), so squirrels can suffer a similar fate.

Do wasps kill squirrels? If wasps sting a squirrel around the mouth or neck, close to its airway, it could get enough swelling to reduce airflow, leading to death. But if humans and squirrels leave wasps and their nest alone, there's no reason for them to attack.

The danger is that a squirrel, in search of food, unintentionally disturbs a wasp's nest and incurs their wrath. If this happens, the first wasp that encounters the squirrel will sting it but also release a pheromone that attracts other wasps to the squirrel. So, a sting by one wasp could turn into a full-scale attack with serious or fatal consequences to the squirrel.

Squirrels Eat Some Insects but Usually Not Wasps

One way a squirrel could get stung is if they invade a wasp's nest to eat the larvae. Some mammals, like a raccoon, will do this, but squirrels don't usually eat wasp larvae, although they sometimes eat hornet larvae when food supplies dwindle.

How To Protect Squirrels Against Wasps

If you have squirrels that visit your yard and don't want them (or you) to be the victim of a wasp attack, remove wasp nests from your yard. Pest control professionals know how to remove wasp nests safely and effectively without harming people or pets. If you remove a wasp nest yourself, take the proper precautions and follow instructions carefully.

You'll need to wear protective clothing such as long pants and sleeves, gloves, and goggles. Wasps will attack anyone who comes near their nest, so be forewarned and prepared. You can find instructions for doing this online, but it's safest to leave it to a professional!

How to Protect Your Home (and Visiting Squirrels) Against Wasps

To discourage wasps from nesting in your yard, don't leave any food lying around the house or garden that may attract them (e.g., pet food bowls left outdoors). Also, trim shrubbery so that no dead wood is lying around which could provide a habitat for them (keep wooden fences used as perimeters between gardens clear of debris)

Some essential oils also seem to repel wasps. One study found that essential oils, including peppermint, thyme, fennel seed, anise, Roman chamomile, geranium, citronella, patchouli, rosemary, lavender, wintergreen, spearmint, lemongrass, clove, pennyroyal, and ylang-ylang have wasp repellent benefits. You can find recipes online for making essential oil wasp repellent.

Squirrels and Wasps Can Coexist

Wasps won’t target squirrels unless they upset their nest and then they go into defensive mode and a squirrel could sustain multiple stings. Depending upon the size of the squirrel, the injuries could be fatal. Fortunately, squirrels and wasps don’t often encounter one another and both can peacefully coexist.

References:

  • Zhang QH, Schneidmiller RG, Hoover DR. Essential oils and their compositions as spatial repellents for pestiferous social wasps. Pest Manag Sci. 2013 Apr;69(4):542-52. doi: 10.1002/ps.3411. Epub 2012 Oct 19. PMID: 23081867.
  • Xie C, Xu S, Ding F, Xie M, Lv J, Yao J, Pan D, Sun Q, Liu C, Chen T, Li S, Wang W. Clinical features of severe wasp sting patients with dominantly toxic reaction: analysis of 1091 cases. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 31;8(12):e83164. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083164. PMID: 24391743; PMCID: PMC3877022.
  • "A wasp was caught on camera attacking and killing a baby bird." 27 Jul. 2020, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/wasp-video-attacking-killing-baby-bird.
  • Claudia B, Rita C, Stefano T. Pheromones in social wasps. Vitam Horm. 2010;83:447-92. doi: 10.1016/S0083-6729(10)83019-5. PMID: 20831958.
  • Xie C, Xu S, Ding F, Xie M, Lv J, Yao J, Pan D, Sun Q, Liu C, Chen T, Li S, Wang W. Clinical features of severe wasp sting patients with dominantly toxic reaction: analysis of 1091 cases. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 31;8(12):e83164. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083164. PMID: 24391743; PMCID: PMC3877022.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.