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What good are wasps?


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What good are wasps?

I am asked this question a lot, usually after I have said that all life on Earth depends on all other life on Earth and if all of the bugs died then we would die too.

The insects that we all know as wasps and the ones that people are referring to when asking the question, are the social wasps. The ones that we see in our British gardens are the Common Wasp, the German Wasp, the Norwegian Wasp, the Red Wasp, the Tree Wasp and the Hornet.

They all look pretty similar, except the Hornet which is much larger, and all make fantastic nests using paper which they make from wood just like we do.

They live in colonies, each started by one mated female (queen) in the spring. At first the queen does all of the work such as building the foundation and first cells of the nest and hunting prey to feed to her larvae. As the new wasps appear (female workers) they take over the work of the queen leaving her to just produce eggs. Thousands of female workers are usually produced and their work includes increasing the size of the nest, hunting prey to feed to the young (larvae) and maintaining a constant temperature in the nest. If the nest starts to get too hot some of the workers use their wings as fans and even bring in water to cool the nest.

Males, which do not have stings, appear in late summer to mate with special females which will be future queens. In the autumn the colony starts to die off and only the young mated females survive the winter. These new queens hibernate and start new colonies the following spring.

Anyway back to the question What good are wasps?

The adults usually feed on sweet things such as nectar and fruit but they are also predators as they catch and kill thousands of other insects, mainly flies, to feed to their young. They help to control the population of other insects.

They are also prey as they are eaten by many animals including badgers, dragonflies, weasels, mice, frogs, fish and birds. The birds that eat them include warblers, swifts, flycatchers and honey buzzards.

What good are wasps?

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