Attract This Wasp-Eating Bird To Your Yard For Natural Pest Removal

Wasps and yellow jackets are among the most disliked insects in the country. These bugs aren't all bad, serving an important role as pollinators and predators; however, wasps and yellow jackets can become especially aggressive toward the end of summer, when they struggle to find enough food sources. They may also be more likely to crash your picnics and birthday barbecues as summer turns to fall, drawn to sweet smells and sugary foods more than they were at the start of the summer. 

If you're dreading the onslaught of wasps this season — or you're already battling with these aggressive insects — the tanager will be your bird best friend. Tanagers are dedicated insectivores, and are happy to dine on the spicy yellow jackets and wasps that other birds tend to avoid. 

If you've tried all the easy hacks that work to get rid of wasps and none have proved successful, it may be time to call in some flying reinforcements. Bringing the summer tanager into your yard could be a win-win scenario for you both, but it's important to attract them the right way and understand the unintended consequences of their hunting habits. Here's how tanagers can solve your wasp woes — and some helpful tips for attracting them to your yard.

Tanagers are excellent wasp-hunters

There are three main species of tanagers that live throughout most of North America: the summer tanager, the scarlet tanager, and the western tanager. If you live in southern Arizona, you may also spot a fourth species, the hepatic tanager. Tanagers aren't just helpful pest control; they're also quite special to look at and fun to watch. Each species varies in color, but males tend to have showy feathers in shades of red, while females are gray and golden-yellow. All tanagers eat insects, but summer tanagers (pictured above) in particular are some of the most helpful birds for wasp control. 

Summer tanagers have a special knack for catching wasps mid-air and smacking them against branches to remove their stingers before eating them. Summer tanagers won't just go after flying wasps, they'll eat wasp larvae and pupae too, destroying the nest before wasp babies can even grow large enough to sting you. 

However, if you like to attract bees and other pollinators to your garden, be warned that the tanagers are not picky eaters. This wasp-hunting bird may also go after some of your desired and beneficial insects, like bees, dragonflies, and spiders. Tanagers are also called "beebirds" for their ability to wreak havoc on local beehives, so they're not one of the types of birds you will want in your yard if you're a beekeeper. 

Make your yard an appealing tanager stop

Wild animals are unpredictable, so summoning these birds to your yard can take some practice and patience. Tanagers are migratory birds, so attract them in the spring if you want to encourage them to stick around throughout summer and into fall. Tanagers like to have perches where they can survey their surroundings, and they can be picky about their nesting sites. Scarlet and summer tanagers prefer dense woodland areas, so a variety of plants and perches are a must. On the other hand, western tanagers (pictured above) love to rest and nest in evergreen trees like pines and firs. Study which birds frequent your area before installing the right trees to attract them.

You should also pay attention to things that are attracting wasps to your home and garden, as these might also be attractive features for tanagers. One example of this is fruits, which are magnets to hungry late-season wasps — and tanagers themselves. Cherry and plum trees also act like beacons for tanagers because they tend to attract a lot of caterpillars, which the birds will pluck from their bark. While tanagers mostly eat insects, they may also nibble on fruits and berries during their breeding season. Summer tanagers love fruits like blackberries, whortleberries, pokeweed berries, serviceberries, citrus, and bananas. If your yard is short on fruits, a few sliced oranges on a feeder plate can also be an attractive offering for tanagers.