What are wasps good for? Why do we have these flying, stinging insects, and are they useful at all? Turns out, they absolutely can be beneficial!
Why Not Kill Them?
Many people automatically kill wasps when they see them establishing a nest. Unfortunately, many insecticides can be dangerous for kids and pets. You don’t actually have to kill wasps however, there are ways of encouraging them to build their nests elsewhere.
A wasp can sting you, and those stings can definitely hurt. And for someone who is allergic, that could be really dangerous. However, most are not aggressive and they will likely only sting if they feel like you are threatening their nest and young. For the most part, if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone.
What ARE Wasps Good For?
In addition to not being as aggressive as their reputation, wasps can actually be beneficial insects. They’re actually great pollinators. The adults mainly eat nectar and carry pollen from plant to plant the same way honeybees do. Figs are even pollinated by only one species of wasps! They’re also important pollinators for orchids as well.
Wasps are also helpful predators. They kill insects such as caterpillars and leaf beetle larvae and spiders to bring back to the nest for the young wasp larvae. They can also help control populations of aphids, whiteflies, and millipedes. Some wasp species even kill pests via parasitism by laying their eggs in those pest insects.
Yellowjackets are sometimes even more vilified, however they carry back already dead insects. So, they’re very useful, like the garbage collectors of the insect world. Wasps help too, as they can clean up decomposing fruit.
Wasps are important for winemaking too. When they feed on late season grapes, they harbor many strains of wild yeast in their stomachs. The queens that survive the winter pass that yeast on to their offspring who carry it back to the new grapes.
As pest populations grow, so will the wasp population. As they eliminate these pests, they will also lower their population over time. So even just waiting a few seasons will help stop wasps from overrunning your yard. They also will not make nests in the same place two years in a row. So even if you choose to discourage them from making a wasp nest next to your front door, know that they are indeed a beneficial insect for your garden!
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