Wasps are fascinating and widely undervalued insects. Humans often fear them because of their ability to sting, but they are of immense ecological importance. In this article, we take a look at the benefits of wasps and how you can encourage them into your garden and live harmoniously alongside them.
Wasps are Good for Pest Control
Although wasps kill some beneficial insects, they are also helpful predators that can help you control pests in your garden. You can depend on wasps as a natural pesticide; they kill many bugs responsible for crop destruction. They are so effective that some farmers buy them commercially for use as a natural pest control method for their crops.
Some wasps are predators, feeding small bits of insects that they killed to their larvae. Others are parasitic because, rather than killing to feed, they lay their eggs inside other bugs. When the eggs hatch, they vacate the host, killing it in the process.
Wasps are predators of a wide range of garden pests, including aphids, flies, caterpillars, grubs, greenflies, and more. Each year, they account for an estimated 7lb of this type of prey per acre.
Wasps Help to Pollinate
People usually think of honeybees as nature’s pollinators and, while they are undoubtedly more effective because of their hairy legs, wasps still play a significant role in pollination. With increasing concerns over declining honeybee numbers, any help with pollination is welcome.
While nests have larvae, worker wasps collect protein for their young to feed on by hunting other insects. Larvae convert protein into carbohydrates, which they secrete as sugary droplets that feed the adult wasps. By late summer, wasps have ceased raising larvae, and so their nests have huge adult numbers with a thirst for sweet liquids. At this point, they visit flowers to drink nectar, transferring pollen as they go.
One type of wasp is especially good at pollination, and that is the Fig Wasp. As their name suggests, they pollinate fig trees. They are the fig trees’ sole pollinator, which makes them extremely important for this plant and fig lovers worldwide!
Female Fig Wasps are tiny, and they push through figs via minute holes, losing their wings in the process. If the fig turns out to be male, the wasp lays eggs, and the larvae make their way out after hatching. If the fig turns out to be female, it will not have enough space for the wasp to lay her eggs. In these cases, the wasp becomes trapped inside the fig and dies. It pollinates the fig and is digested by it. Doesn’t this fascinating relationship demonstrate just how innovative nature is?
Wasps help with winemaking!
An intriguing and little-known fact is that wasps contribute to the process of winemaking. A University of Florence study found that wasps have an ideal nesting area inside their stomachs for the saccharomyces cerevisiae. The fungus is integral to the process of wine, bread, and beer making.
Late season grapes are a favorite snack for wasps, and they are naturally rich in yeast. The wasps feed on the grapes and then store the yeast inside their stomachs through winter. It is passed down genetically to the wasps’ young or as they regurgitated food for them. This next generation of wasps is responsible for transferring the yeast to the new season’s grapes.
How to Attract Wasps to Your Garden
If you’re keen to embrace wasps for organic pest control in your garden, there are some steps you can take to encourage them.
Wasps seek safe refuge to build their nests. Usual candidates for wasp nests are hidden cracks, insulated walls, crevices, and cavities. If you’re not allergic to wasp stings and seek a natural pest control method in your garden, you may want to consider allowing selected nests to remain in place.
Wasps are not too fussy about where they build nests, but they prefer places where weathered wood is nearby. The queen uses wood to make her nest by chewing the fiber and creating a paper pulp with her saliva. Furthermore, she is a master architect and uses this pulp to build her incredible hexagonal nest.
Fruit trees and fragrant, nectar-rich flowers make an attractive environment for wasps during the summer months. The scent of mint repels them so if you are looking to attract them into your garden, consider leaving mint out of your herb garden. The same goes for thyme, lemongrass, citronella, eucalyptus, and penny-royal.
To attract predatory wasps, you can make small wooden nest blocks or stem bundles and hang these around your garden. Non-aggressive solitary wasps are ground-nesting and also hunt for garden pests. Consider leaving bare patches of ground for them to nest in.
How to Live in Harmony With Wasps
There’s no doubt that, despite the benefits they can bring, wasps can be troublesome. This fact is undeniable in the late summer when they hunt for sweets and become attracted to the scent of perfume, cosmetics, and human food.
It’s essential to learn to live harmoniously with wasps if you want to reap the pest-control benefits. If you have fruit trees in your garden, the wasps will enjoy feeding on the fallen fruit. Make sure you use protective gloves when clearing the orchard to avoid stings from unsuspecting wasps. Encourage the wasps to eat away from your home by establishing a fruit waste compost at the far end of the garden.
While many people consider wasps a dangerous nuisance, we have shown how ecologically important these fantastic creatures are. If you’re looking for an organic, biological pest control method, then wasps could be the answer. Take some steps to encourage them into your garden while being careful to implement measures that allow you to live peacefully alongside them.