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Are Wasps Beneficial for Gardeners?

Wasps are only pests, why do they even exist? That's an expected and common thought after one has been stung by the fierce creature. Discovering a wasp nest around an inconvenient nook or battling them for apple pies and sugary drinks is a nuisance for sure. But, that's not the only side to the picture. Wasps do have their downsides but those do not devoid them of some undeniable benefits they bring to the gardeners. Every creature has a purpose (a good one), and wasps have many of them. Continuing reading, let's unleash them together.

Wasps as Pollinators

It is not entirely correct to call wasps efficient pollinators for crops. They have silky smooth bodies that are not very good at collecting and transferring pollen between flowers as compared to the hairy honey bees. However, as wasps are flower-nectar lovers, they carry out reasonable pollination within the garden. Interestingly, the foregoing fact varies with the wasp species in question. For example, fig species are excellent pollinators (better call it their expertise). As is evident from the name, they pollinate fig trees. In fact, fig wasps are the only insects responsible for the pollination of fig trees. Both fig trees and fig wasps are highly dependent upon each other and their importance for each other cannot be argued. The female fig wasps make it to the figs through a hole so tiny that it even rips off her wings. If that is a male fig, she would lay eggs and soon the larvae would turn out. However, if the fig is a female, she can't lay eggs due to congestion. The poor fig wasp dies inside trapped and devoured by the fig. However, she dies after pollinating it – sounds cruel but resourceful. Did you know? The fig is only an inverted flower and not an actual fruit.


Free Pest Control

Social wasps such as paper wasps are mostly found during picnics and barbeques with their annoying noise and nests build at inconvenient places, sheds and house eaves. No matter how painful, it is still worth tolerating them for the reason that they not only hunt on your eatables but also hunt on most of the harmful garden pests. The entire summers, wasp seek aphids, caterpillars, flies, and other garden bugs to feed their larvae. Within that small-looking paper wasp hive, thousands of larvae are contained that are capable of hunting on tens of thousands of bugs that otherwise cause damage to plants and crops. In addition to those commonly known, yellow and black jacketed wasps, many other wasps provide an essential wasp control as well. Solitary wasps, for example, hunt on many pests for their larvae. Other parasitic wasps such as the minuscule wasp would efficiently serve all kinds of whitefly problems. Similarly, braconid wasps lay eggs on caterpillars and tomato hornworms (the mystery behind white-looking caterpillars).

Wasp Imitators

Commonly known to the eye, the black and yellow look of wasps is a social threat to all bugs to keep their distance. The same colored patterns are found in many other flies such as syrphid flies (a species of hoverfly). These flies are often thought of as paper wasps or yellow jackets. However, you can identify the right kind of a fly by identifying some common differences between them. A hoverfly is easily identifiable by its shape and eyes. They have a smarter waist when compared to those of wasps and their eyes look like covered with sunglasses. Whereas, wasps have smaller eyes on the two sides of their head and have a curved body. Hoverflies would also keep circling flowers aimlessly for they are excellent pollinators and pest predators. Honeybees also seem like wasps and are often treated similarly (shooed away in fear and disgust) but do keep a close eye to find honeybees furrier, duller, and flying with their legs hidden.

How to make peace with Wasps

Contrary to their repute, wasps are not that fierce. They only attack back when attacked first. Attack for them includes waving your arms at them, shooing them away in a hurtful manner, and knocking their nests down – all of this is antagonistic and wasps won't wait long until they defend themselves. Wasp venom contains pheromone – this signals all other nearby wasps to come to the defense when one wasp is being attacked. So, if you have been stung, better move to a closed place before you are stung by other fellow wasps, too. To save yourself of wasp stings, adopt a respectful yet neglecting attitude while moving around them and they will reciprocate the same by ignoring you. Also, in the worst case, if you get stung, that's still not a reason to worry. Make sure to squeeze out the wound to loosen up any venom left in the blood (it's better to squeeze out a few drops of blood from that part). After that, wash it with soap as soaps are of an alkaline nature. Apply anti-histamine lotion regularly till the wound disappears and take an anti-histamine tablet. If the symptom continues to grow severe (increasing redness, stiffness, and inflammatory wound), don't wait and reach out to a doctor. Wasps' nests are often disliked by people especially when found inside houses or yards. However, they have such fine pollinating abilities that leaving their nest unaffected is the best. Also, wasps are so common, you won't be able to get rid of them entirely. Just avoid leaving any sugary substance unattended and you'd come across half the battle. During summers, wasps’ larvae feast on insects and convert the protein within them into a sweet liquid that is consumed by the worker wasps. However, during late summers, when the larvae have matured, the worker wasps don't find any sugary drink and look out for it themselves. This is where wasps and humans mostly face a conflict. If you are very convinced to remove the wasp nests from your space, do that during winters when worker wasps and old queen dies and the new queen only shows up during the next summers.
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