Wasps are natures’ very own gardeners and they were here well before man arrived on the scene. We humans benefit greatly from wasps without even realising it so it is important that we respect and manage wasps and don’t just get rid of them.
Wasps are important polinators of plants and this is becoming increasingly essential in light of declining bee populations. Queen wasps emerging from hibernation feed on plant nectar from flowers and in so doing polinate many plants including important crops. Later in the year, when wasps start sweet feeding they polinate late flowering plants including late varieties of strawberries and raspberries.
During the hunting phase of their life cycle, wasps catch and kill billions of tons of insect pests each year. Did you know that an average wasp nest, a little bigger than a large football, will eradicate between 4 to 5 metric tons of insects in one year. That’s enough insects to fill a 5000 sq ft warehouse and there are about 1,000 wasp nests per square mile! If we eradicate queen wasps or whole colonies before nests mature, then we risk a serious rebound problem from other insect pests with some very serious consequences. Not only will our crops and fruit be placed at risk from grazing insects such as caterpillars, grubs and various beetles and weevils, so will we and our animals. Wasps help control mosquito populations as well as other biting insects. It may surprise you to learn that wasps help keep horse fly and tick populations under control which helps protect humans from some nasty diseases including Lime’s disease.
Carbon Chain Vectors:
Wasps play a major part in helping to break down and degrade fallen timber. During the growth phase of the nest wasps collect wood as a nest building material and generally speaking they collect such wood from fallen trees. This helps open up the fallen trees to mould and rot which helps return carbon back into the carbon chain whilst at the same time creating space for new trees and plants to grow. Without this help from wasps, woodland would quickly get bogged down with fallen trees.
Wasps help fruit trees to disseminate their seeds. Wasps don’t actually eat fruit! It may sound strange because everyone has seen wasps attack plums and apples but nevertheless, they don’t eat the fruit. The mouth parts of a wasp don’t allow it to eat solid foods, only to drink liquids. When wasps attack fruit, they use their mandibles to gouge or scrape the fruit to release juice which they then drink. The flesh from the fruit then falls to the ground which helps fertilize and prepare the ground to help the seeds germinate and grow.
Wasps will prey on bees both as a source of protein during the hunting phase of the wasp life cycle and then later on to rob out honey. Wasps will naturally root out and attack weaker bee colonies which whilst difficult and upsetting to see, nevertheless means that only the healthiest of bee colonies survive. Weaker bee colonies are frequently those colonies that are diseased or carrying parasite infestations. There is an argument which suggests that the removal of such weaker bee colonies by wasps helps to stop the spread of diseases in bee populations.
Wasps will also feed on carrion during the hunting phase of their life cycle. By doing so, wasps help prevent the spread of disease from rotting flesh.