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What is the purpose of wasps?

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 wasp’s cousins, bees, are a very important part of our ecosystem, but what do wasps bring to the table?

Nature’s Pest Controllers

An unknown fact is that wasps are nature’s pest controllers. When they are not busy stinging us or building their nests inside our homes or workplaces, they are busy preying on the insects and parasites that can damage crops and other vegetation. Many species of wasp are the natural predators of various 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. It is noted that 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 wine makers…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 by wasps feeding on one of their favorite snacks, late season grapes, which are naturally rich in yeast. The yeast is stored in the wasp's stomach over the winter where it is then passed down genetically to its young as well as from the food it regurgitates to feed them. The new batch of wasps then transfers the yeast to next season’s grapes.

What 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. Mostly wasps are attracted to sugary foods or food which is high in protein such as tuna.

  • Insects - 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. Some species, such as Paper Wasps, feed on carrion (dead flesh), and go hunting for dead insects to feed on.

  • Fruit - Wasps love fruit! It is predominantly the adult wasps who feed on fruit, due to its high sugar content. 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 often eat apples, pears, and grapes -- just to name a few.

  • Nectar - Just like bees, some wasps feed on nectar. However, it is mainly the male of the species which will regularly visit flowers to obtain this golden treat.

  • Sugar - 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 with fruit, but they have been known to indulge themselves in cakes and other sweet treats. Wasps have also been known to invade the nests of honey bees to rob their delicious honey. It has also been noted that wasps’ larvae produce a sweet syrup, which the adults lap up.

  • Protein - 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. Some species of wasp are known to be potential and efficient pollinators, helping to contribute to the pollination of several plant species.

Fig Wasps

A little known 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 sort of 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 that prevent wasps from laying their eggs inside them, while allowing the pollen to be transferred.

Wasp control with Ehrlich pest control

Having wasps on your property can be quite concerning. Don't let these stinging pests control whether or not you can safely be outdoors. The pest specialists at Ehrlich are the industry experts in wasp control, and you can trust us with the safety of you and your family.

Contact Ehrlich today to schedule an inspection with one of our pest specialists to make your wasp infestation a thing of the past.



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