Charismatic minifauna

There is something about wasp related news that really appeals to me. That said, I have no qualms about murdering the wee beasties when the build a nest in my own garden.

A new study into how the many species of stinging wasps contribute both to the ecosystem and human society, however, suggests that a more live and let live attitude might be in order.

“Wasps are one of those insects we love to hate – and yet bees, which also sting, are prized for pollinating our crops and making honey,” the study’s lead author, Professor Seirian Sumner of UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, told Eurekalert.

“In a previous study, we found that the hatred of wasps is largely due to widespread ignorance about the role of wasps in ecosystems, and how they can be beneficial to humans.”

Not only do they pollinate 960 species of plant — 164 of which depend on the wasp entirely — they also keep crops free from pests in their role as apex predator. The pest control aspect is not new, though, with Brazil farmers using live wasps for pest control as far back as 2013.

According to Professor Sumner:

Wasps are understudied relative to other insects like bees, so we are only now starting to properly understand the value and importance of their ecosystem services. Here, we have reviewed the best evidence there is, and found that wasps could be just as valuable as other beloved insects like bees, if only we gave them more of a chance.

I’m all for giving wasps more of a chance. Especially if they nest in someone else’s garden.

Send in the wasps of war

This is so cool

Blinking in the blazing Brazilian sun, a farmer looks up at the sound of an aeroplane, flying low over his sugarcane plantation in Sao Paulo.

A hatch suddenly opens, and a white cloud emerges.

It may look like pesticide, but these are live eggs falling down – from wasps.

Once hatched and grown, the insects inject their own eggs into those of the sugarcane borer – a moth that in its caterpillar stage eats valuable plants – preventing the pest from hatching.

A number of farmers in Brazil have swapped chemicals for wasps, in a country that has recently outgrown the US as the largest consumer of pesticides.

Wasps: They’re awesome