Revealed: the secret lives of wasps

Buzzing around: There are over 5,000 species of wasp in the world. © Alamy

Are we too harsh on wasps? Humans have had a bad relationship with them for hundreds of years. But now, scientists say we should have more respect for the little stinging bugs.

What’s happening

Wasps are pests. They buzz around our food. They climb into juice. And they sting us. Even Charles Darwin hated them and said they were pointless.

But new research says we are all wrong. According to scientists, these stinging insects play an important part in making the natural world work.

Find out more

Wasps might look scary and unfriendly, but they are very sociable. They live in big family groups. They help each other with problems. And some even sacrifice themselves for others.

Not only this, they also have important jobs in the environment. Research shows this could help humans too.

First, they are good hunters. Wasps like to hunt bugs, spiders and flies. This makes them very useful for humans. Farmers often have problems stopping insects from eating the food they grow. Using wasps could mean we do not need to use chemicals to keep our crops safe.

Wasps are also pollinators. Just like bees, they spread pollen from plant to plant. This helps us grow more food and feed more humans.

Are we too harsh on wasps?

Some say…

No! Wasps are horrible. They are scary and look ugly. And they are pests! If you drink a fizzy drink or eat something sweet, they will chase you. They even attack fruit if you have it in your home. Worst of all, they sting. For some people who are allergic, this can be a real danger to their lives. We are right to fear them.

Others think…

Yes! Lots of insects bite and sting us. They cannot help it. It is a natural way to protect themselves. And wasps are just as important as bees. They keep the natural world balanced. Lots of farms may need them to help grow their crops. We should show them more love.

You Decide

  1. What is the most unpopular animal in the world?

Activities

  1. Imagine you have shrunk down to the size of a wasp. Write a story about a day spent living and working with the insects.

Some People Say...

“All life is linked together in such a way that no part of the chain is unimportant.”

John Henry Comstock (1849 – 1931), insect and spider specialist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Charles Darwin
A scientist most famous for his theory of evolution. He did not believe in God and used wasps as proof, saying God would never create such a pointless animal.
Sociable
Friendly or likely to spend lots of time with others.
Sacrifice
To give themselves up for something. Older wasps often die to let younger ones survive.
Chemicals
Pesticides are made to kill insects and keep crops safe. But they also kill useful insects, like bees.
Pollinators
An insect, bird or bat that takes pollen between different plants. This means the plants can make seeds and reproduce.
Allergic
Having a reaction to certain plants, animals, foods or insects bites. Some people can die if they are stung by a bee or wasp and do not get to hospital in time.

Subjects

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