Friday, 1 September 2017

What's really the point of wasps?


By Prof Adam HartUniversity of Gloucestershire
25 August 2017

A new citizen science survey aims to shed light on that fixture of summertime in the outdoors: the wasp. Though much maligned, these fascinating creatures perform a vital ecological role, say scientists.

The only thing more certain to spoil an August Bank Holiday weekend BBQ than a sudden cloudburst? The arrival of wasps.

At this time of the year, it can sometimes seem as if every outdoor activity is plagued by these yellow-and-black striped insects buzzing around your head and landing on your food and drink.

Wasps aren't just annoying - if you are unlucky, you might end up with a sharp reminder that wasps, like their close relatives the honeybee, pack a powerful sting. That combination of nuisance and pain makes wasps many people's least favourite animals.

Perhaps more than any other insect, wasps are badly in need of a change in public opinion. As well as having fascinating lives, they are extremely important in the environment and face problems similar to those of their cherished, but often no less annoying, cousins the bees.

As the summer approaches its end, many will wish for it, but a world without wasps would most certainly not be a better place.

Social types
The insects we most commonly identify as "wasps" are the social wasps. Social wasps (called yellow-jackets in some places) live in colonies consisting of hundreds or thousands of more-or-less sterile female workers and their much larger mother, the egg-laying queen.

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