An inconvenient species that can often sting, wasps pollinate flowers, which actually makes them quite useful. Since these insects are very similar to honeybees, many people assume that they could also be pollinators. However, this assumption is typically incorrect. Instead, wasps act as beneficial predators that help control garden pests. They bring other benefits, but also potential drawbacks. Read on to learn more about wasp pollination and how they help control pests.
Table of Contents
Why wasps pollinate flowers and how they can be beneficial insects
If you’ve ever been stung by a wasp, you can vilify these creatures. But do wasps pollinate flowers and do they actually help maintain the food supply? They can do this and actually more. In addition to pollination, wasps are also important predators that help keep down the population of damaging beetles in gardens. You might see them in a different light if you knew all the benefits of these stingers. Most wasp species are either solitary or parasitic, but there are also at least 850 social wasp species that live in colonies and form hives. However, compared to bees, wasps are less efficient at pollination, but they can still pollinate and feed on nectar like bees.
In general, wasps are not considered pollinators. Most species do not pollinate plants because they do not have the furry soft hairs or a special body part for storing pollen like bees do. For this reason, pollen does not stick to them very well. However, there are a few species that can carry pollen without these hairs. The largest species of pollinating wasps are fig wasps, which are responsible for pollinating hundreds of species of figs. They enter the fig through a small pore to mate, lay eggs and pollinate the tiny flowers inside. Other wasp species like to feed on nectar but usually do not pollinate plants.
Recognizing differences in body structure
Wasps are closely related to bees and can be useful pollinators. It may be difficult to tell the difference between a wasp and a bee, but most wasps are fairly hairless, while bees carry a lot of down. Many wasp species have a characteristic slender waist, while bees are thicker. Also, bees tend to have stout little legs, while wasp legs are slender and dangly.
Wrinkled wasps are the variety that pollinates the most. Just like a honeybee colony, this species lives in a group led by a queen. In this process, each insect fulfills a role, and such special function classifies wasps as beneficial insects. At the end of summer there are many workers, but no more larvae. In fact, it is the larvae that convert their protein-rich food into sugar for adults. Towards August, wasps concentrate on nectar sources to make up for this lack of sugar.
How do wasps pollinate flowers and other plant species?
Most wasps pollinate in a similar manner to bees, except bees carry a greater amount of pollen. Pollen sticks to the hairy bodies of bees, which they can transfer to a pollen basket on their hind legs. Wasps lack this ability, with the difference making wasps less effective at pollination.
Nevertheless, wasps are important because they can visit and pollinate flowers that bees cannot reach. In addition, unlike their hairy bee cousins, wasps have smooth abdomens with sparse hair. Pollen clings to the few hairs wasps have on their bodies and legs, which are then pollinated, but to a lesser extent than bees.
However, some studies have shown that wasps may be more efficient than bees under certain circumstances. There are also specific roles in pollination for wasps, such as pollinating orchids and figs. Some wasps are also known as pollen wasps. There are about 300 species of these, and they behave more like bees. They are vegetarians and feed exclusively on pollen and nectar. These wasps pick up pollen through their mouths and store it internally, rather than collecting it in a basket on their legs like bees.
How wasps can feed
Most wasps have short tongues and seek out flat flowers. While feeding, they inadvertently transfer pollen from flower to flower, effectively pollinating. Also, most wasps cannot see the color red, but UV light can. This means they are more attracted to white and yellow flowers. Wasps eat many insects and bring back a good portion to feed larvae.
While some of their prey may be good bugs, most are pests. However, wasps don’t make honey either. Instead, their nests are used for the queen to lay eggs. Such wasp nests, which are often removed, are made of weathered wood from porches or old fences. They chew these wood fibers into a pulp paste and then form them into hexagonal cells. Some species use other materials.
In addition, insects are omnivorous and feed on other insect species, invertebrates, and nectar. However, wasps hunt other insects only because they give them to their larvae. Adult wasps, however, eat only sugar. They get liquid and sugar when they drink the nectar of flowers or fruits. When they drink the nectar of flowers, they passively transfer pollen between flowers. The parasitic wasp forms lay their eggs on or in other insects or invertebrates and become hosts. Some species hunt or eat dead animals, and nectar is only a small part of their diet.
What pests do wasps protect plants from?
Basically, every pest has a wasp that hunts it, so it is difficult to describe the extent of wasps’ ability to protect against harmful species. One example is hawkmoths, which are victims of ichneumon wasps. Wasps lay their eggs in these invertebrates, which makes them hosts. The hatching wasp eggs then kill the hosts. This pest control saves many tomato plants from destruction. Wasps also eat caterpillars that damage plants, flowers, and crops. In addition, more and more gardeners are beginning to use wasps beneficially. Parasitoid species, for example, have been released to target insect larvae.
Taking advantage of wasps and promoting their population
Many crops in the ecosystem depend on wasps to survive. Their contribution enables people to harvest and grow food, either through direct or indirect pollination or insect control. Because of their beneficial nature, it is therefore best to learn to live with wasps rather than kill them. Keep the area around your home clean and free of debris to prevent insects from setting up housekeeping where your family eats and entertains. Harvest fruits when they are ripe and rake windblown fruits that rot and attract wasps.
You can keep wasps away from your residence by providing them with an attractive area filled with items such as banana peels and fruit peels. Wasps are territorial and can be repelled by purchasing a similar nest. By keeping wasps away from your home, they will move farther away and still visit your garden to provide their services to your flowers without disturbing you. In summary, wasps are often underappreciated insects, but their importance is key to pollination, pest control, and the overall health of many crops and a variety of flowers.