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
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!
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”.
Also, based on a community inquiry, I stumbled across this very well-written New York Times article about yellowjacket ecology and behavior. It was featured in the newspaper in August 1999!