Benefits of Wasps in and around Gardens

  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. Pollination 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. Predatory habits A great number of wasp species are predatory, particularly on invertebrates like insects and spiders. They tend to be Continue Reading →

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Yellow Jackets – Friend and Foe

Among the many kinds of wasps we have around here, yellow jackets are probably the most numerous. Through the years, I’ve had so many dealings with them that I decided to learn more about this insect. Yellow jackets are several species of wasps that have a highly organized social structure, more so than many other kinds. There is more than a single species, though the behavior of the species is much the same, regardless of the individual kind of yellow jacket. The species variation is mostly in size, habitat, and coloration. In other words, they differ in where they are and what they look like, but not in what they do or how they do it. Like ants, the nest is dominated by the queen. Infertile female wasps called workers are the most numerous in the nest, with a small number of drones being produced to mate with the next generation of fertile females. The drones are males and their sole purpose is to breed. When the drone’s job is done, they usually die. Since the queen yellow jacket’s purpose is to produce eggs, this means that the infertile females, or workers do the bulk of the work of the nest or swarm. Like most wasps, yellow jackets have three distinct body parts; head, thorax, and abdomen, with the separation between the thorax and abdomen being quite noticeable. This is the origin of the term, “wasp waist” to describe a person with an exceptionally narrow waist. This also helps to Continue Reading →

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Special Relationship Between Yucca Plant and Yucca Moth

There are many plants that have a special relationship with specific insects or plants, in a way that is mutually beneficial. This sort of relationship is called symbiosis. However, one of the most wonderful symbiotic relationships is between the Yucca tree and the Yucca moth. Yucca plants are flowering trees that are commonly found in the desert southwest of the United States and in Mexico. They are drought hardy and thrive in the desert heat. The yucca has adapted to its environment so it can conserve water and live even in the inhospitable desert. However, the desert isn’t a great place for most pollinators, like bees. There are some, but not as many as in other climes and certainly not in areas that get extremely hot and dry. This would be bad news for the yucca plant, except that it has a unique and rather special partner; the yucca moth. The moth isn’t large or colorful and it adapted while the yucca did as well, leading to the unusual relationship. Adult yucca moths don’t live for very long. This makes it vital that they can lay eggs quickly. While other moths can take the time to find ideal locations for egg laying, yucca moths don’t have that luxury. Because it isn’t going to be around long, it has no need to feed, so it doesn’t have a mouth like other moths and butterflies have. However, where its mouth parts would be, it has structures that are somewhat like tentacles. After Continue Reading →

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