Why do we hate wasps so much?

Paul de Zylva

08 May 2017

Hate wasps? Here are 5 facts about wasps that might change your mind and show you some good things about wasps.

Late summer. Bees are buzzing in the garden and wasps are… well, they’re ransacking your BBQ and trying to drink your beer. Typical.

People love bees. Our campaign to stop bee decline continues to get a huge amount of support. Bees are cute. They make honey. Well, one species does. The honey bee is the pin-up of the bee world. There are 266 other species doing great jobs too - pollinating some of our best-loved crops including apples, strawberries and tomatoes. Bees have earned their stripes.

Join the Great British Bee Count

But wasps get it in the neck for bothering us when we’re trying to enjoy ourselves. And they look menacing. And they sting (never mind that bees do too). And… what do they really do? What are they for?

Poor old unloved wasps.

Well - we’re here to tell you that wasps weren’t just born to annoy you at picnics. Here are 5 good reasons to cut them some slack.

1. Wasps eat lots of garden pests

Without them our gardens and our farms would be overrun with insects like aphids that sap plants of their strength.

Wasps are part of a whole ecological guild of scavenging animals that includes ants, various birds, etc, which plays a valuable role by removing vast amounts of waste organic material from our towns and cities every year.

Dr Jeff Ollerton, University of Northampton

2. Wasps are not interested in stinging us

Honestly. Just ignore them and they’ll buzz off. They will. Flapping at them will provoke them for sure. They come after the sweet stuff – it’s only natural.

Wasp drinking beer
© sourcecoda/Flickr CC

3. Wasps are related to bees

Like bumble and honey bees some are social insects living in colonies. We have 9 species of social wasps in the UK – the familiar black and yellow or orange-banded ones. There are also digger, mason and potter wasps.

 

Join the Great British Bee Count

4. Wasps are great architects

They make amazing papier-mâché structures. They can be seen and heard munching on soft wood (like old garden fences) to turn into pulp for use in the construction of their nests.

Cerceris arenaria, Sand wasp
Sand wasp (Cerceris arenaria) UK, © Laurence Livermore/Flickr CC

5. Wasps help make wine

Some wasps store wild yeasts in their gut over winter. By feeding on grapes the following year, wasps kick start the fermentation process by passing on some of this yeast. A wine-lover’s best friend!

Still can’t give a fig about wasps? Well, wasps pollinate figs too.

The wasps you’ll see in your garden or house also help pollinate a range of plants including ivy, fennel, angelica and even some orchids.

So keep calm and let the wasp carry on. The next time it shows an interest in your sandwich, don’t swat it. Give it some credit.

 

Cerceris arenaria Sand wasp Shropshire
Sand wasp (Cerceris arenaria) Shropshire, UK, © Nigel Jones/Flickr CC

This blog was updated on 8 May 2017

Main photo: Mason wasp (Ancistrocerus parietum) photographed in Attingham Park, Shropshire

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Ancistrocerus parietum, Mason wasp