IS THAT A WASP? I HATE WASPS LEE!
Yep they're wasps and love them or hate them (and I know they can make it hard to love them),
wasps have an absolutely CRUCIAL role in the ecosystem and are just as ecologically IMPORTANT
for humanity as bees.
(It's not just cows, chickens, sheep, pigs and fish that need defending from humans!)
SO WHY ARE WASPS SO IMPORTANT?!
Just like bees (who get all the attention), wasps also pollinate our flowers and food crops.
Yet they don’t mind what flowers they visit (unlike bees), and they pollinate so many more flowers
so are more abundant in degraded or fragmented habitats.
Some would say they're MORE important than bees!
Wasps are a health police, they eat other sick animals, kill insects that carry human diseases
and maintain a healthy balance in the ecosystem.
As predators, they’re at the top of the invertebrate food chain and without them, food webs would break down which would then lead to catastrophic results.
Wasps also (unlike bees) naturally control and regulate populations of a wide range of species that some gardeners like to label (incorrectly) as 'pests', such as caterpillars, aphids and whiteflies.
So there's no reason for the use of toxic chemicals when we already have dedicated,
hard-working creatures that do this for free!
THAT DOESN'T MEAN I HAVE TO LIKE WASPS?
I DON'T LIKE MOSQUITOES, SPIDERS OR FLIES EITHER LEE!
They're on your side! A small wasp colony eats up to 3,000 flies, mosquitos and spiders each day!
WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS LEE?!
Because despite bringing huge ecological benefits to our planet, unfortunately the yellow-black insects are UNDER THREAT. They're disappearing at an alarming rate around the world due to industrial agriculture, climate change and habitat loss, among other factors (like idiots catching them in beer traps!)
Wasps are generally apex predators - so if they're not doing well, it indicates that there is something wrong with the world.
They are facing a similar decline to bees - and that is something the world simply cannot afford!
SO WE KILL A FEW WASPS?! SO WHAT? THE WORLD ISN'T GONNA END LEE!
It's not just about wasps. Wasps have their own predators including dragonflies, flies, hornets, centipedes and spiders as well as 24 varieties of birds including blackbirds, magpies and starlings. So if wasps are wiped out, then a hell of a lot more goes with them. Us included. So yes, if we continue as we are, without educating ourselves and without making significant changes, then yes, the world is going to end.
BUT THEY'RE STUPID AND ANNOYING LEE!
You're stupid and annoying. They're super-intelligent insects and they're more like us than you think.
The parallels with HUMAN societies are uncanny: there are specialist work forces, rebellions, policing, leadership contests, undertakers, even free-loaders and anti-social thugs. You name it, wasps have it too!
THEY ATTACK FOR NO REASON LEE!?
So do you when you see a wasp. Or a bee. Or a spider. Or a mosquito. I bet you don't think twice?
Wasps sting only to defend themselves – this is an evolved strategy to combat vertebrate predators at
the nest and swatting at them like YOU do, may elicit the same innate collective behaviour.
BUT THEY STING YOU LEE!
They're looking for sugar, that's all. Instead of eating insects and spiders (these are only fed to the developing brood in the nest), adult wasps - both social and solitary - only feed on sugars.
Adult wasps don't live very long, so they don't really need much protein. They just need to load up on carbs! So they need the sugar, which they get in the form of nectar from flowers, (transferring pollen from flower to flower), honeydew produced by aphids and the wasp larvae also produce a sugary liquid that the
But when these things aren't always available, there is also a lot of sugar at pubs and PICNICS!
YEAH WHY IS THAT?! WHY DO THEY ALWAYS RUIN MY PICNIC?!
Social wasps only really become a 'nuisance' in late summer. This is because at this time there are no larvae left to feed so instead of hunting for prey, the workers turn their attention to sugar (nectar and your picnic!) Some wasps’ stings trigger the release of an alarm pheromone that attracts more wasps. So perhaps try to isolate the first wasp that appears, under a glass but don’t forget to release her at the end of your picnic.
And definitely don't kill her!
I STILL DON'T LIKE EM LEE!
You don't have to. Just try not to fear them. Or kill them. Try to understand them.
The problem isn't them, it's you.
And some scientists. Considering the lack of research and information about wasps, it's no wonder
they have a bad image. Bees have seen increased level of public interest and support after news of their decline made headlines. Novels have been written about what our world would look like without bees, 'beekeeping' has become a mainstream hobby (despite it being cruel, unnecessary and immoral)
and we're constantly being told to "think about biodiversity and do something good for bees."
This is very true and we most definitely should, however wasps (whether they sting or not),
deserve the same kind of appreciation and public support, as the bees get.
There are about 9,000 species of wasp in the UK.
These include the parasitic wasps, some of which are so tiny, they can barely be seen without a microscope.
Only 250 of the 9,000 are the larger wasps which have a stinger and only nine of these are social
wasps which form the large, social nests we usually think of - the others are solitary.
Many of the 9,000 species are parasites of insects or plants, such as gall wasps which lay eggs on a plant, causing it to form a gall to protect the larva.
SO WHAT ARE YOU SAYING LEE? LOVE WASPS?!
Wasps do so much for humanity and a better appreciation of the ecological, economic, medical and cultural services that our stripy friends provide, might help us see them in a different light.
They serve as predators, act as pollinators and help disperse seeds, among many other useful functions.
They are a gardener's friend, along with bees (some of which also sting when threatened remember!)
and they play a vital role in maintaining harmony in the ecosystem and keeping us and our families alive.
So yes, learn to love them.
There are many other reasons to admire wasps. For one thing, they may be indirectly responsible for the invention of paper. Around 2,000 years ago a Chinese eunuch called Cai Lun noticed a wasp building a paper nest in his garden. Inspired by what he saw, he started to mulch wood and with it made the first paper.
If the story is true, then perhaps we have wasps to thank for much of our rich cultural history and development.
Yep. Now fast forward to today where exciting research is looking into the potential use of wasp venom as a cancer therapy. A chemical found in the venom of the tropical social wasp Polybia Paulista, has been
shown to selectively destroy various types of cancerous cells. An active peptide found in the venom selectively destroys cancerous cells by causing their membranes to leak.
So wasps may have the potential to save human lives.
You're an idiot. SO next time your picnic is disturbed by these black and yellow insects, take a moment to think about their extraordinary world and the contributions they make to our lives before you reach for the newspaper. Without them, the planet would be 'pest' - ridden to biblical proportions, with much reduced biodiversity. They are a natural asset of a world dominated by humans, providing us with free services that contribute to our economy, society and ecology.
A world without wasps would be an ecological and economic disaster and we certainly would not be
able to cope in a world without them.
OK. I'LL TRY. FANCY A PINT LEE?
A wasp sitting on my finger in summer - causing zero harm and definitely not stinging me!
Hello! Lee Brace here! Award-winning actor, comedian, writer, photographer and vegan.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org