The sound of summer is often punctuated by several yelps and screams as a wasp arrives at a bbq. They are seen as a pest by many, but actually, they are exactly what you want in your garden. Here are some fun facts about these stripy insects who have a bad rep!
- The UK has 7,000 species of wasps.
- We love a bee as we view them as useful pollinators in our gardens. However, the poor wasp doesn’t get the same adoration, despite providing a similar pollination service!
- Wasps are also a natural form of pest-control and are very efficient decomposers making them extremely ‘useful’ garden companions.
- The vast majority (around 70 per cent) of wasps don’t sting
- Gardens provide particularly good habitats for wasps, especially if there’s lots of dead wood, exposed soil, flowers, water and a healthy population of other insects.
- Wasps are hunters, usually of other insects, because their offspring require meat to develop into adults. This makes them very efficient natural pest-controllers, including insect pests in gardens like caterpillars, aphids and weevils.
- Wasps will find nutrition from nectar in flowers and in doing so, they carry pollen from flower to flower. Social wasps are also decomposers and so are important in gardens in clearing up dead creatures – including your leftover BBQ sausage… (unless the dog got there first!)
- Solitary wasps won’t bother you at all – you won’t even know they are there. Social wasps only become bothersome at the end of the summer.
- Social wasps (those that live in colonies) catch live and dead prey and bring it back to their colony to feed to developing larvae. A single queen lays the eggs, which are cared for by thousands of workers. It is the workers that do the hunting and feeding and in return, the larvae give the workers a sugar reward each time they are fed, providing the adult wasp with some nutrition. The colony produces only workers until the late summer, when the queen switches to producing sexual brood – young queens and males. Males die after mating (with new queens from other nests), along with any remaining workers and the old queen. Mated young queens hibernate and establish a new nest next spring.
To avoid a bbq incident due to waving arms and shrieks, put out some jam or other sugary treat, a few metres away from your dining area, and the wasps will be happy and stay away from you.
*Source – the Royal Entomological Society