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Wasps Have a Purpose

Mud dauber, Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Extension

Mud dauber, Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Extension

Paper wasp, Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Extension

Paper wasp, Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Extension

 

I respect the fact that wasps can sting when threatened or disturbed. But I also respect the fact that they are beneficial.

 

Every time I’ve been stung by wasps, I either accidentally disturbed a nest that I didn’t know was there or I intentionally disturbed the nest and paid the price.

 

Paper wasps are common in Florida. They frequently construct and attach their paper-like nests to building eaves or the ceilings of porches. The adults seek out caterpillars, which they sting and paralyze. They then take the caterpillars back to their nest and place them in individual cells as food for the developing larvae.

 

I’ve witnessed the paper wasp as it stings and carries away a caterpillar from my vegetable garden. They are busy insects and are doing us gardeners a favor by reducing the population of caterpillars in our landscapes and gardens.

 

There are other beneficial wasps in Florida. Mud daubers, for example, build their mud-like nests on the sides of buildings close to human activity.

 

The mud dauber is not as aggressive as the paper wasp. It rarely stings people. It stings and paralyzes spiders. The mud dauber lays an egg on each paralyzed spider and seals it inside a chamber in its earthen nest. Upon hatching, the wasp larva feeds on the body of the spider. An emergence hole is made as the young wasp leaves the mud nest.

 

It may not be wise to tolerate all wasp species living in close proximity to your home. Even though yellow jackets, a type of wasp, could be considered beneficial, they are too aggressive and too likely to repeatedly sting to have as close neighbors. I also would be concerned with any type of wasp or bee nest existing in close proximity to individuals with a known allergy to insect stings.

 

Just because an insect has the ability to sting, it’s not all bad. Wasps can serve a beneficial purpose. But you’ll have to decide for yourself how close to you they can build their nests. The front porch may be too close.

PG

Author: Larry Williams - llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Permanent link to this article: http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/2014/08/04/wasps-have-a-purpose/