Wasps are natural predators that help keep the population of other species low. They can manage the populations of pest species, such as invasive insects, and contribute to pollination. Between these two roles, wasps are an essential part of our ecosystem.
What Is the Purpose of Wasps?
Wasps play a considerable role in our ecosystem through direct and indirect pollination. Wineries and vineyards rely on wasps to control invasive pests and contribute to the pollination of grapes.
All members of the Hymenoptera order, which includes wasps and bees, are essential to pollinating our garden. While not all wasps pollinate directly, they indirectly pollinate by collecting pollen as they feed on nectar or by controlling insects and invertebrates that destroy plants.
Wasps can be very territorial and aggressive, especially if someone invades their space. They fiercely protect their hive and larvae. However, if wasps aren’t provoked, they’re unlikely to bother humans or other animals.
Why Aren’t Wasps Liked by Humans?
Most wasps have a pretty bad reputation amongst humans. If a wasp feels threatened, it will try to sting. Unlike honey bees, which lose their stingers after one sting, a wasp has a smooth stinger and can continue to deliver painful stings repeatedly.
They are territorial, which means if a human or animal gets too close to a nest, they may attack. Multiple wasps may even come out when one starts stinging to provide reinforcement. Because of this, wasps can be scarier than honey bees. Many humans try to kill wasps and spray their nests in order to get rid of them.
Are Wasps Beneficial to the Ecosystem?
When we take one creature out of an ecosystem, the impact can be dramatic. Wasps and bees are vital to healthy ecosystems because they pollinate plants and flowers and control pests. Without them, many plants and flowers would die off, leaving other organisms without a food source.
This can cause a ripple effect, since those organisms may die without a food source, leaving other animals without a food source, and so on. Not to mention that some pest populations would grow out of control without a predator to feed on them. Without mobile pollinators, such as wasps, flowers would have fewer chances of reproductive success.
Wasps also serve a purpose as prey. They are a good food source for other creatures. Some birds, dragonflies, reptiles, and mammals eat wasps. When one food group goes missing, it impacts everything in the surrounding environment.
These aggressive insects are ensuring pests don’t harm or consume your garden, and they are providing a food source to other animals.
What Sort of Ecosystem Services Do Wasps Provide?
One of the main reasons wasps are so crucial to the ecosystem is that they provide natural pest control.
Wasps prey on creatures like:
|Aphids||These pests can weaken a growing plant and destroy a garden very quickly. They also produce a substance called honeydew, which will then attract ants.|
|Beetles||Having beetles in your yard ensures you won't have edible vegetables at the end of the growing season. One of the best ways to limit these bugs is by letting wasps hunt in your yard.|
|Caterpillars||These creatures are small, but they can eat an entire garden very quickly.|
|Crickets||Crickets will munch on freshly planted seeds and young plants. When this happens, they're consumed before they can bloom.|
|Spiders||Although many spiders won’t harm humans, they may use plants to catch other beneficial insects. They are a common food source for wasps, but not necessarily a pest for a garden.|
If these insects are present in large populations in our garden, it’s time to let the wasps do as nature intended. They play an essential role in ensuring the ecosystem remains healthy and balanced.
What Do Wasps Do With Their Prey?
Wasps may not actually eat the insects and invertebrates they catch, but they will limit them by killing them. Most adult wasps will search for sugar or human food to consume but use insects to feed larvae. If they kill any insects or invertebrates they will either feed them to their larvae or they will use them to incubate eggs. When this occurs, the host body provides food for the larvae until they hatch, killing the host.
In most cases, adult wasps will go for sugary substances like honey, sucrose, whole fruits, some plants, and some insects. They can be beneficial for a healthy garden, but because wasps sting, many homeowners choose to eliminate them.
Despite the concerns of stings to humans or pets, wasps are essential. Wasps are often connected with plant life cycles and the predator-prey relationship of other species. If they were eliminated, many plants, insects, invertebrates, and small animals could be at risk of declining populations or extinction.
Do Wasps Pollinate?
Although wasps do not have the same type of bodies as honeybees, which are covered in little hairs that help collect pollen, wasps can help the pollination process. The lack of hair on a wasp’s body makes it harder for pollen to attach itself to the wasp, which leads many people to assume they do not pollinate.
Some wasps pollinate directly, and some pollinate indirectly by consuming nectar. Other wasps don’t pollinate but kill insects and invertebrates that may be harmful to plant life.
How Do Wasps Pollinate?
When a wasp pollinates, researchers label this as “specialist pollinators.” Most wasps will go after the sugar in flowers and will use their tongue to grab it. When they go from flower to flower, they will transfer some pollen with them.
How Do Wasps Contribute to the Yeast Content Found In Grapes?
Certain wasps love to feed on grapes when they have fully ripened. When they start eating the grapes, they transfer a natural yeast onto them. This process will result in making the grapes perfect for wine and is another reason wasps are vital to a healthy ecosystem.
How Do Wasps Pollinate Figs?
When a wasp finds a fig with flowers, the wasp will squeeze into the centre of the fig. In the process of getting inside, the female wasp will tear her wings and antennas off, making her incapable of leaving. She will lay eggs inside of the fig and then die inside of it. Both males and females mate inside the fig, then the males dig a hole to allow the females to leave. The males die inside the fig.
The fig is vital to the wasp’s life cycle, as is the wasp to the fig. Because fig flowers grow inside of them, they’re poorly pollinated. The wasp brings pollen to the birth fig, allowing the flower to grow, and the young wasps carry pollen to the next fig.
Can Wasp Toxin Destroy Cancerous Cells?
There has been some speculation that one type of wasp, called the Brazilian wasp, contains a substance in its stinger that could destroy cancer cells without harming surrounding cells.
One study suggests this may be true, but a lot more research is needed to understand how effective wasp venom can be in treating cancer and what the potential risks may be.