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How Wasps Help Gardeners

Wasps often get a bad rap. While gardeners and nature lovers have welcomed bees, wasps are often sprayed, chased, and misunderstood. Yet, according to an article by Emily Osterloff for the Natural History Museum, wasps are successful managers of the insect populations in gardens. Without their presence, gardeners would be battling far higher numbers of caterpillars, aphids, and spiders.

In the same article, Dr Gavin Broad of The Natural History Museum (NHM) explains the adult wasps’ need for sugar. While their offspring feed on insects, adult wasps need nectar. They visit flowers with accessible nectar. Although they’re not a specialist pollinator like some bees, they pollinate some flowers thanks to their nectar collections. Gardeners, don’t shoo away the wasp, who could be pollinating your herbs, flowers, and fruits, alongside bees and hoverflies.

This urgent need for sugar is why, at this time of year (late summer), wasps stray from the flowers and buzz around pub gardens, picnics, and kitchens. They’re not after you. You’ve got this paradise of sugar. They’re after your cake, your pint…sugar please guys, sugar needed urgently.

Here a desperate adult wasp popped into the kitchen and inspected every single cupboard, so I gave it a little sugar water outside (below).

Sugar water for a desperate wasp

They can seem alarming, if they’re protecting their nest or if you’ve ever been stung. Their bold search around picnics and pubs can create conflict with humans, as can their choice of nesting sites. Check out my page about Wildlife Gardening with Wasps for tips on managing wasps in a wildlife-friendly way.
Yes, they are misunderstood, but they are a vital species in our wildlife ecosystems. Dr Broad at the NHM also said if wasps are not doing well, it’s a sign the natural area isn’t either. Give them a space in a wild part of your plot/garden (away from your home/space), like you would with bees. Give a wasp some flowers, a wild home and… your sugar.