Three years ago, my field season was so affected by yellowjackets (FIG. 1) that I decided to find out what I could learn about them. Their abundance, activity, what influences populations, etc. It was actually harder than I thought to find information! This was noted by a 2018 paper , where the team investigated 908 published papers over almost 40 years and yep – less than 3% of them were wasp-related (FIG. 2).

Despite the importance of both taxa, bees are universally loved whilst wasps are universally despised.”

Seirian Sumner et al., 2018
dead yellowjackets and lepidoptera wings
FIGURE 1 – Wasps are predatory, and can interfere with VegNet data collection because they enter traps and consume the moth bodies! Tough to get an accurate count of corn earworm when all that’s left are the wings!
FIGURE 2 – Unequal research effort of these related Hymenoptera, as noted in a 2018 paper (link provided above).

Now, the same author has released a new paper highlighting the benefits of wasps. They provide ecological services like predation of pest insects and pollination (FIG. 3). Wasp venom is even being investigated as a potential cancer treatment. Read the news story here: https://www.wired.com/story/whats-the-point-of-wasps-anyway/ and remember that next time you reach for the swatter or spray can, you might be disrupting a beneficial insect!

FIGURE 3 – Ecosystem services provided by stinging wasps. From: Biological Reviews, First published: 29 April 2021, DOI: (10.1111/brv.12719)

If you’re looking for information about bees AND wasps – be sure to check out OSU Extension Publication EM9211 – it gives beekeepers a brief overview of yellowjacket wasps, identification, behavior, preventing attacks, etc. Yes, yellowjackets are a common threat to honey bee colonies and should be taken seriously. But even in this publication, the authors “affirm[s] the important role yellowjackets play in ecosystems”.

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