When someone mentions wasps, images of stinging insects instantly rush through your mind (a natural reaction that everyone endures). This is mainly due to many of us experiencing the painful assault of a wasp.
On top of this, during the summer and early fall months, there are horror stories constantly circulating the web around stinging insects attacking people and building nests in and around homes.
What do wasps do?
We all know that wasps’ cousins, bees, are a very important part of our ecosystem, but what do wasps bring to the table?
Nature’s pest controllers
A little known fact about wasps is that they are nature’s pest controllers. When they are not busy stinging us or building their nests inside our homes and/or workplaces, they are preying on the insects and parasites which can damage crops and other vegetation.
Many wasp species are the natural predators of many insects, thus helping to keep pest populations low. Wasps take these unwanted pests from our gardens and parks and bring them back to their nest as a tasty meal for their young.
Other species of wasp are parasitic, which still lends us a hand in pest control. Our UK division will sometimes use small parasitic wasps to help manage pests such as aphids in an agricultural setting. Parasitic wasps use living host subjects such as spiders and caterpillars to lay their eggs in. Once the eggs have hatched the larvae feed on the living host from the inside out.
We think we’ll leave this type of pest control to the wasps!
Expert wine makers
That’s right; wasps are amazing winemakers…sort of. They contribute to the yeast content found in grapes.
A study carried out at the University of Florence has shown that wasps provide a suitable nesting area inside their stomachs during winter, specifically the saccharomyces cerevisiae fungus used to make wine, beer and bread.
This is done when wasps feed on one of their favorite snacks, late-season grapes, which are naturally rich in yeast. The yeast is then stored in the wasps stomachs over the winter where it is then passed down genetically to their young as well as from the food they regurgitate to feed them. The new batch of wasps then transfers the yeast to next season’s grapes.
Who do wasps eat?
The majority of wasps, especially social wasps (those that live in a community within a nest) are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of different food sources. Wasps are primarily attracted to sugary foods or food that is high in protein such as tuna.
As stated earlier, wasps are predatory insects; they feed off other insects and spiders such as caterpillars and aphids. It is the female wasps that go out searching for food, paralyzing their prey with their powerful sting, masticating it on-site and bringing the remains back to the nest for everyone to feed on. In some cases, it is only the larvae that consume insects.
Interesting fact: some species, such as paper wasps, feed on carrion (dead flesh), and go hunting for dead insects to feed on.
Wasps love fruit! It is predominantly the adult wasps who feed on fruit. The reason behind wasps’ attraction to fruit is the high sugar content, a favorite among wasps.
A wasp’s love of fruit is one of the main reasons they are seen as pests. They often attack orchards, as well as people’s gardens in search of a fresh supply of fruit. Wasps eat apples, pears and grapes to name a few.
Just like bees, some wasps feed on nectar. However, it is mainly the male of the species who will regularly visit flowers to obtain this golden treat.
Like ants, wasps have a massive sweet tooth. They love sugary things which is one of the main reasons why they love our picnics. For the most part they satisfy their cravings for sugar from fruit, but they have been known to indulge themselves in cakes and other sweet treats.
Wasps will even go to other stinging insects for their sugary fix. Sometimes, they’ll invade the nests of honey bees to rob their delicious honey. Adult wasps will also consume the sweet syrup produced by their larvae.
Did you know: Wasps love a good tuna sandwich? Tuna is rich in protein something wasps are very fond of.
Do wasps pollinate?
Although some wasps, especially males, are partial to a spot of nectar, as an insect group wasps, with some exceptions, aren’t regarded as pollinators. However, there are some species of wasp that are known to be potential and efficient pollinators, helping to contribute to the pollination of several plant species.
A little know fact is that wasps play a crucial part within the life cycle of a fig, specifically the fig wasp.
Fig wasps are the only pollinator to the fig plant. Without wasps, these tasty fruits would simply not exist. For the pollen of one fig plant to reach another, the fig wasp must provide a FedEx-like courier service. The plant returns the favor by providing the fig wasps with a constant source of food and shelter.
This relationship is referred to as mutualism, as the fig plant and the wasp rely on each other to survive.
Wasps in figs
The discovery of this relationship between wasps and figs lead to the conclusion that many of the figs we eat contain wasp eggs, since fig wasps use these fruits as a nesting area.
However, fig wasps only lay their eggs inside the male fig plant, which aren’t edible. Female fig plants contain certain barriers which prevent wasps from laying their eggs inside them, while still allowing the pollen to be transferred.
Do you think differently about wasps now?