If you answered “Absolutely nothing!” you may be in sync with the song Edwin Starr sang so powerfully in 1970, “War!” – but not with how the wasps all around us actually contribute to our world.
Most of us think about pain and being stung when we think of wasps. But how many of us realize how much good wasps do? If, like me, you are hard-pressed to come up with much to thank wasps for, here is an excellent and quite short article about their value to the natural world.
In brief wasps eat lots of smaller insects that would be a problem if left unchecked. Like so many things, if left well enough alone, nature has a wonderful set of checks-and-balances that we can only upset when we interfere. But wasps have other things in their favor, too.
Can wasps do basic math?
Wikipedia (I DO hope you support this non-profit group, who are so valuable as a resource for all of us) has an, as always, fact-filled, and reference rich article on insects. Here is one small clip:
Some insects display a rudimentary sense of numbers, such as the solitary wasps that prey upon a single species. The mother wasp lays her eggs in individual cells and provides each egg with a number of live caterpillars on which the young feed when hatched. Some species of wasp always provide five, others twelve, and others as high as twenty-four caterpillars per cell. The number of caterpillars is different among species, but always the same for each sex of larva. The male solitary wasp in the genus Eumenes is smaller than the female, so the mother of one species supplies him with only five caterpillars; the larger female receives ten caterpillars in her cell.
So, the next time you see a wasp, think about how thankful you are that they are on duty, cleaning up and keeping in check a whole host of smaller insects that would otherwise be overrunning us.