What good are wasps in the Garden?

Wasp on indoor plant container garden in Chicago.png

Today, a local gardener asked me on Twitter:

and really what good are wasps?

If I had been asked that question a few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to come up with anything positive to say about the wasp. I was stung by one once as a kid and it took one bad experience for me to hate them all. I even hated WASPs, even though I didn’t know any or knew what the term meant, I just knew that anything with wasp in the name was pure evil because of that wasp that stung me once.

I hated wasps with a passion. If I was watering the lawn and a wasp happened to be in the area I’d do my best to knock it out of the air with a stream of water and subsequently drown it.

Now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser, I know that wasps aren’t that bad and are actually beneficial in the garden. I’ve also learned–much to my surprise– that WASPs are not a race of giant wasps that have infiltrated the human race.*

If you read my notes from the lecture on urban beekeeping you’ll
remember that bees and wasps are members of the order Hymenoptera. Bees
evolved to be foragers and leave behind the predatory lifestyle of the
wasp. They are just wasps with fur coats if you think about it.

Wasp attacking Webworm moth on sunflower in Chicago garden.png
In the photo above a wasp is attacking a Ailanthus webworm moth on a sunflower in my garden. The predatory characteristic of many wasps are what makes them a beneficial insect to have in the garden. They are part of the natural gardener’s arsenal against garden pests and instead of being hated should be loved, or at the very least tolerated. Right now I have tons of wasps buzzing around my garden eating aphids and the flies that are in abundance.

* Yes, I did believe that as a kid. I blame it on late night viewings of this episode of the original Outer Limits.

The scientist who talks to bees hires a sexy lab assistant who is really an invading queen bee. If you work with a sexy lab assistant who you suspect to be a bee brandish a fly swatter and if she recoils, she’s a bee.

See also; Urban Bees at Chicago Garden & Flies That Look Like Bees at Chicago Garden.


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  • Hi Ana,

    I'm not sure if they're hunters of ants. I'll have to check on that.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Hi Joe,

    Looks like my reply got eaten by the ChicagoNow ghost. Shorter answer: check to see if you have any bugs they're dining on. Could also be that there is a bumper crop of them this year. Have noticed a lot of them, seemed to be a bunch at the garden center I visited today too.

  • "They are just wasps with fur coats" -- so bees are the WASP wasps, then?!?! HA! (I amuse myself. I really do.)

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    You didn't just amuse yourself, I got a laugh out of it too.

  • o.k. all silliness aside. I don't go around killing wasps, but they are always eating all the good caterpillars as well as the bad...very frustrating.
    GartenGrl at Planning Plants to Plant

  • In reply to GartenGrl:

    Now that is something I wish I can see so I can take some pictures.

  • fb_avatar

    This summer I have had quite a lot of wasps appearing in my garden. I mean them no harm and I was wondering if there is anything I can do to stop them from destroying other insects like any sprays?

  • fb_avatar

    Your website is terribly informative and your articles are wonderful.
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