If you spend any amount of time in your yard, you might have seen a wasp or two flying about. (At least I hope you’ve seen some!) Wasps are incredibly important and beneficial insects to have around.
Why Wasps Are Beneficial
Many Wasps (if not all) contribute to pollination. Pollination doesn’t just take place by well-known bees like Bumblebees or coveted birds like Hummingbirds. Wasps can help both your ornamental and edible gardens flourish.
Wasps are also excellent natural Pest Exterminators. They help keep populations of insects in check to create a balanced environment for your garden. That’s right, you can thank Wasps for having healthy and productive fruit and vegetable plants that haven’t been ravaged by large numbers of caterpillars and other insects that can act as pests in large numbers.
Wasps and their larvae are also food to other wildlife. If you want to attract more birds to your yard, you want Wasps around. Fun fact: some very cheeky birds, like Carolina Wrens, might treat Wasp nests (or pollinator boxes!) like a fast-food restaurant, stopping by to grab a quick bite of larva. I have seen this in our garden more than once.
But Aren’t Wasps Dangerous?
Wasps are not inherently dangerous. In fact, only female Wasps can sting and not every species of Wasp even has an evolved stinger. Female Wasps use their venom and stinger to paralyze and collect prey for their family and to protect their nests. Wasps don’t usually waste their energy by going out of their way to cause pain among humans.
Your chance of being stung by just being out and about or even working in your garden is very low. It would be more of a freak accident than a regular event if you got stung just by being out in your yard.
Now, if you go and poke a nest or have the unfortunate luck of disturbing a hidden ground nest, you might end up with some defensive stings. The chances of a ground nest being on a part of your property you frequent is unlikely, though. Yellowjackets will not often choose to build a ground nest where they see humans stomping about on a regular basis.
Paper Wasp Nests
Paper Wasps (commonly seen wasps that create beautiful nests of paper-like material they make by chewing up wood fibres) often craft nests around buildings but at heights that generally protect them from having run-ins with humans. You’ll likely notice that if the nest is over a door you walk through often, the Wasps pay no mind to you. They behave as though they are used to your presence and were aware you would be around.
Alternatively, if you go open a door to a shed that you haven’t opened lately, the Paper Wasps in that nest, might swoop down at you to say “hey wait what’s up with you all of the sudden being so close to our nest?”. One might swoop down at you once or twice but will likely not sting and quickly realize that you mean no harm. They get accustomed to your presence and soon don’t react at all to you opening and closing the door. You coexist without issue.
Wasp Behavior to Keep in Mind
+ Solitary Wasps, such as Scoliid Wasps, Potter Wasps, Mud Daubers, etc. are extremely docile Wasps under nearly every circumstance.
+ Social Wasps, such as Yellowjackets, Paper Wasps, etc. are almost always mellow unless their nests are being disrupted. Most people who end up with several Yellowjacket stings unknowingly disturbed a ground nest, which caused several Worker Wasps to sting in defense of their nest (hard to really blame them).
+ It’s always wise to keep in mind that Wasp species around the world can have different “temperaments” and those temperaments can change based on the circumstance. Wasps are always going to be more assertive when approached at their nests than elsewhere, and it’s fair to assume Social Wasps are going to be more assertive than Solitary Wasps.
So, Why Do Wasps Have the Reputation They Do If They Aren’t Really Aggressive & Dangerous?
For one, there’s just a lack of knowledge out there about Wasps. These amazing insects need more love, respect, and appreciation.
Mainly, though, Wasps have a bad reputation because it’s profitable to demonize these insects. We live in a world where humans are obsessed with controlling the environment around them, and pest extermination companies can take easy advantage of that. In addition to marketing Wasps and their nests as “foreign” objects on or around your house (when Wasps were there BEFORE your house was), pest companies also use fear to sell their services. Wasps are marketed as dangerous insects so that people are quick to use professional services or products (like sprays you buy at big-box stores) to eradicate these insects. It’s a lucrative business.
The media is also – unsurprisingly – responsible for sharing incorrect information and fear mongering when Wasps (and insects, in general) are involved.
Wasps are beneficial garden buddies. They are not our enemies and are unlikely to sting unless provoked, which usually means disturbing their nests. They contribute to pollination, help keep insect numbers in check, feed other wildlife, and are important critters for the ecosystem. They are not to be casually eradicated or demonized. I hope as you learn more about Wasps and make more of an effort to observe them, you’ll learn to love them like I do.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out! Throw me an email at email@example.com. Thanks for reading my ode to Wasps! I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to learn more about these fascinating insects! To learn more about why you want all kinds of insects and arachnids in your garden, check out my blog post about insect biodiversity in your yard.