Enemies With Benefits
June 28, 2019
I remember when I was a kid playing outside with my friends, whenever there were wasps sightings we would run away scared silly. Why would we not? Wasps at that time already had such a bad name. We watch Saturday morning cartoons and there you see wasps chasing the big bad bear around to bother them! I mean, what were we supposed to do when even bears fear them?
In hindsight, what we did as kids were not the most ideal thing to do. As I would soon find out, moving quickly - much more running - would agitate them even further. We will discuss this as we move along.
Now as grown-ups, my friends and I have witnessed their being such a nuisance during our outdoor picnics and barbecues. How they ruin all the fun just with their presence alone.
This makes us wonder, are wasps here on this planet just to sting? Does the planet benefit from their presence? Do we human beings benefit from them? First, let us take a look at wasps a little more closely.
There are more or less 30,000 species of wasps. They come in different colors; they can be yellow, brown, blue, or red. They come in many different sizes, with the biggest going as long as 2 inches in length. The littlest can be about .0055 inches in length. Actually, the smallest insect in the world is a wasp - the chalcid wasps which is a solitary wasp. Some people confuse wasps with bees. Wasps can be distinguished from the bees through their narrow waists and pointed lower abdomens.
Social Wasps And Solitary Wasps
Wasps can be distinguished further into their two subgroups: the solitary wasps and social wasps. Only a very small percentage of the wasp population is social; of the 30,000 species of wasps, only a thousand are social. Social wasps include the yellowjackets, paper wasps, and hornets. The social wasps have stingers that they use only for self-defense. These wasps build their nests and belong in colonies.
A single queen builds a colony from scratch, that is how a colony begins its life. This queen was fertilized the previous year and hibernates the rest of the winter. During the spring, they re-emerge. This queen would build a nest where she can lay her eggs. When this first batch of eggs hatch, she would be the only one available to take care of her young. Once her female offspring become adults, they become her workers. Eventually, the number of workers would increase, and the nest gets bigger. A colony can have as much as 5,000 wasps. Every year every wasp in the colony would die, including the queen. Then the cycle starts all over again. There will be survivors though, the newly fertilized queens. They would be the only ones to survive the winter.
Solitary wasps, as their name suggests, do not form any colonies and live all alone. This is the bigger subgroup. There are solitary wasps that build nests, and some do not. An adult female solitary wasp looks for food alone. If she decides to build a nest, she does so only for herself and her offspring, and not for a colony. Unlike the social wasps, solitary wasps use their stingers for hunting. For food, they prey on insects like beetles, spiders, crickets, and, aphids. They only attack humans when provoked.
They feed their larvae with dead insects. They have this ability to paralyze their prey which comes in handy so that when their larvae are ready to feed, they would be fed with fresh meat instead of rotting carcasses.
There are the squatter solitary wasps. They do not build their own nests and use only holes that are already existing. There are also the builder solitary wasps; they build their own nests. Then lastly there are diggers who dig holes in the ground for their nests.
Types Of Wasps Found In The United States
Paper is among the most common of the common wasps. They sting humans when threatened and their stings are painful. Their name is derived from the fact that their nests are made of paper materials from wood that they chewed themselves.
Wasp hornets are very aggressive and can attack without provocation. Their stings can be quite painful. They are an inch long, dark in color with white, cream, or yellow markings on the abdomen, thorax, and face. Like the paper wasps, they make paper-like nests out of chewed wood and their saliva. They have large nests and are usually found in wooded areas hanging on tree branches. But they can also build nests at the side of houses and utility poles, which can make them dangerous for homeowners. Removal of their nests is very important since they can be dangerous.
Yellowjacket wasps are ½ inches to ¾ inches long, black in color with yellow markings. Yellowjacket wasps are known to like food that humans eat, that is why they are usually spotted near trash cans scavenging for food. If you see their nests within your property, it is important to have them removed immediately because they sting when they feel threatened and are highly territorial. Yellowjackets do not travel far from their nests, so spotting one means their nests are just nearby. The yellow jacket wasps are said to be the most dangerous because of their aggressive nature.
Wasps Are Beneficial, Too
Wasps were not really brought here in this world just to sting and be a nuisance pest to us. As it turns out, the world is a better place because of them. They are not just these nasty, stinging insects. Here are the ways they can be helpful to the ecosystem:
- They are natural pest control. Farmers and gardeners encourage the presence of wasps because they prey on destructive pests like aphids, black flies, and even cockroaches! Some wasps are predatory; they capture the pests and feed them to their larvae. There are also the parasitic wasps, which kills pests in a different way: they lay their eggs inside the abdomen of these pests, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae would feed on these pests from the inside. This enables farmers to use less of the more dangerous pesticides, which is also better for us end-users.
- Like their relatives the bees, they are very good pollinators. This is another very important role for the wasps. When they feed on the nectar of flowers, the tiny hairs on their bodies carry the pollen which they scatter around when they fly. It has also been said that there are certain species of orchids that are pollinated exclusively by wasps.
- Wasps also share their homes. Some other beneficial insects share nests with those built by wasps, and these kind wasps do not mind at all.
I hope this clears the air on the usefulness of wasps in the ecology and change many people’s mindset towards these creatures. There are many ways to get rid of wasps if they become too much of a nuisance, or if their nests suddenly appear in your backyard. Many people are eager to kill them, but this is a very bad idea because more will come back at you to avenge the death of your comrade. Here are some ways to get rid of them without actually killing them.
- Cover your trash bins. Wasps like to forage for food in trash cans.
- If you have to drink soda outdoors, use covered drinking glass or cups. Wasps are daring enough to attack that soda in your hand.
- Avoid wearing sweet-smelling perfume. Wasps are attracted to it and may go near you to investigate.
- Wasps are also attracted to colorful clothes, so avoid wearing them when going outdoors.
If there are too many wasps in your yard, and you feel that you and your family are in danger with their presence, then you may need the help of professionals. Perhaps, you need the best pest control management in North Carolina, Go-Forth Pest Control.
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