Many people have rather painful memories of wasps. They can bite from the front end and repeatedly sting from the other, since most don’t lose the stinger when they use it. People acquainted with yellow-jackets have probably been subjected to the reminder that wasps are often best left alone. For the home gardener, though, wasps can be a great insect to have around the garden.
Bees and wasps
Though bees and wasps are similar, they aren’t the same creature. The coloring can be much alike, but they are still not the same. Most species of each do tend to have hives of one sort or another. The number of individuals in the hives of either can be large. Some wasps and bees are solitary and don’t produce large hives or colonies. Still, the point is that wasps aren’t the same as bees. They are different insects.
When people think of flower or plant pollination, they often think of bees. Indeed, bees are important pollinators, spreading pollen particles from one flower to another. What some gardeners might find interesting is that wasps often also pollinate flowers. They may not be as proficient at producing honey, however pollen and nectar are rich energy sources and many species of wasps take advantage of it. In areas where there aren’t many bees, wasps may even do the majority of the needed pollination.
A great number of wasp species are predatory, particularly on invertebrates like insects and spiders. They tend to be quite active hunters in and around gardens. Though they can, and often do, kill a number of creatures that are usually considered as helpful in the garden, such as spiders, they usually also eradicate a large number of insects that are considered to be pests in the garden. In this way, wasps serve as biological pest controllers.
Wasps can also be great at removing garbage, in and around gardens. As put by Charley Click, a long time resident in a national park, “One day I noticed a dead mouse on a stump, not far from my house. Normally, I would have put it in the garbage can, but there were a few yellow-jackets flying around. I decided to wait until after dark to remove the mouse, since I wasn’t eager to get stung. I totally forgot about it for a couple of days. When I remembered, I went out to check on the mouse and found nothing left but bones. The yellow-jackets had eaten everything else.”
Yellow-jackets are a kind of wasp and as disgusting as it might sound, they clean up carrion. They have strong, chewing mouth parts, capable of dicing meat up into parts and they can carry a surprising amount of the flesh back to their nests. Not only are they not the only wasp species that do this, they are also not repulsed by meat that is rotting, usually. This makes them handy to have around a garden, where rodents, snakes and other similar creatures might meet their demise. Better still, they are so good at it that a gardener might not even be aware of the dead animal until they discover the bones. The carrion can be removed before it even has much of a chance to stink.
Understandably, many people prefer to give wasps a wide berth and often, wisely, leave them alone. This makes sense because these creatures can normally give a painful bite from one end and an even worse stinging pain from the other, sometimes at the same time. Quite a few gardeners might take extreme measures to remove any wasp nests that are found. However, wasps do serve useful purposes in and around gardens. Successful gardeners often have a special appreciation for these insects.
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Posted in pets and animals and tagged bees, garden, helpful, pollination, predator, wasps by rextrulove with 8 comments.