Are Wasps a pest or garden natural pest control

August 28, 2008

Wasps are fascinating eusocial insects with a queen and many infertile female workers. I think they are the tigers of the air. Some people consider wasps a pest because they eat the fruit and drink their beer whereas others consider them a welcome garden natural pest control.

As the season comes to an end, they prepare by producing Virgin Queens to carry the genes in to the next generation.

Queen wasp building a nest

Instead of only producing workers to tend the nest, the workers of colony decide to feed some the larva with protein to produce Queens. They want meat. Prey can be caterpillars, or insects, some they rade from spiders webs. They chop the caterpillars into manageable pieces and fly back to the nest where they are chewed up and fed to the larger queen larva. It’s only the larvae that can eat meat, Wasps can’t. The larvae regurgitate a sugary meal in return for being fed by the adult wasps.

Wasps are very useful as natural garden pest control because they eat a large number of garden pests such as caterpillars, aphids, queen ants.

Wasp nest in lawn can be dangerous to humans and pets

Wasp nest in lawn can be dangerous to humans and pets Wasps excavating a mouse hole in lawn

Wasps excavating a mouse hole in a lawn

Wasps excavating a mouse hole in a lawn

Wasps will often make their nests in our loft space, where it is dry and out of the way of danger or under tree roots and sometimes they will excave underground mouse holes. These can be more of a problem because if they are disturbed by people walking on the lawn near the nest or disturbed by the vibrations from a lawn mower, they are more likely to go and defend their nest and sting whatever they consider a danger.

A powder can be sprayed in to the nest – best to do this at night when it’s dark and all the wasps are inside the nest and less able to come out in defence of the nest.  If the colony is causing no danger to humans or pets then best to leave them alone.

In the northern hemisphere only the Queens survive the winter by hibernating and emerge the following spring to start a new colony. All the workers and drones will die.

In New Zealand however, the weather allows the wasp colony to survive all year round and our European or German wasps are causing havoc to their native wildlife.

Photography Neil Bromhall.