Consider The Wasp
May 4, 2016 3:02 PM   Subscribe

***links contain pictures of wasps and bees*** "Despite the fear they sometimes evoke, wasps are extremely beneficial to humans. Nearly every pest insect on Earth is preyed upon by a wasp species, either for food or as a host for its parasitic larvae. Wasps are so adept at controlling pest populations that the agriculture industry now regularly deploys them to protect crops."

"Save The Bees!' has become a familiar rallying cry to most of us since the discovery that bee populations all over the world are disappearing. Our attitudes towards bees have radically changed in the space of a few years, with slogans, organizations, legislation, and websites galore popping up to try to help protect them. But what about the wasps? Do they need protecting too? How important are wasps in the scheme of things? What happens to bees when we use poisons to kill wasps?

Neonicotinnoids, the pesticides that are killing the bees are also used in most wasp poison, and they have long term effects on mammals birds and fish as well. Humans may also be significantly effected by these pesticides. Something to think about before you blast a big dose of wasp spray on a nest of paper wasps, especially since non chemical control is relatively easy.
posted by WalkerWestridge (33 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Despite the fear they sometimes evoke, wasps are extremely beneficial to humans.

Come talk to me when you've been stung in the eyelid
posted by Hoopo at 3:24 PM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

I've mostly made peace with the brown wasps and bumblebees that populate my back yard; also with the ground wasps that have taken up residence in my front yard. I was washing my car this last weekend and a couple honeybees were really taking an interest in my car, probably because they were thirsty, and I was fine with them flitting about while I went about my business. Yellow jackets are still dicks though, fuck those guys.
posted by dudemanlives at 3:24 PM on May 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

Come talk to me when you've been stung in the eyelid

Why, are you an eyelid doctor
posted by beerperson at 3:34 PM on May 4, 2016 [39 favorites]

This is a very well-written post, thanks.

The language does not inspire my dislike of wasps to subside:

"...she emerges... rears a starter brood of worker females. These workers then take over... Nearly every pest insect on Earth is preyed upon by a wasp species, either for food or as a host for its parasitic larvae."

That wasp that stung me in '89 on the U.C. Berkeley campus when I was doing nothing but walking - up yours wasp. I am alive and you are not.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:35 PM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Beneficial? Doesn't matter, they're still assholes.
posted by azpenguin at 3:43 PM on May 4, 2016

especially since non chemical control is relatively easy.

Having been unable to even make a slight dent in the wasp population for two years using non-chemical control, I went full on Fritz Haber last year. It was the first summer in years that none of my kids got stung.
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:46 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

The playground at the end of my street has a good-sized sandbox. My girls love it. And most summers, it is swarming with wasps.

I would freak out about this except that the county parks and rec department annually puts up flyers explaining that the bugs are sand wasps. Sand wasps, the flyers explain, live in the sand and don't much care about people. They aren't big on stinging. What they do enjoy, however, is eating mosquitoes. The flyer then concludes with "we prefer to let the wasps eat mosquitoes than to spray poisons around playgrounds to control the bug population, so chill out about the wasps, it's all good." (Well, that's how I remember the phrasing.)

My girls have never been stung by these wasps despite many opportunities. The playground is one of the few mosquito-free areas in the neighborhood in summertime. The fliers do not lie. Sand wasps are amazing, the flyers are genius, the parks and rec department knows what it's doing, and I'm toying with setting up a sandbox in my backyard to lure some of the buzzy, mosquito-devouring bastards onto my property.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 3:47 PM on May 4, 2016 [17 favorites]

I use the spray on yellow jackets, we mostly just smack the others down with a broom.

Yellow jackets are evil ya'll.
posted by emjaybee at 3:48 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I, too, have had pain and inconvenience inflicted upon me by wasps and yellowjackets. It sucked. I still love them because wasps are fucking awesome. Get stung haters
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:56 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I prefer not to have the possibility of brief minor pain so I indiscriminately kill tiny animals whenever I encounter them.
posted by beerperson at 3:58 PM on May 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

There's some population of outdoor spiders around here that spin their webs in annoyingly inconvenient places; I've had cases of the frantic web and spider brushing when walking facefirst into a big ol web strung across the stairs in front of my place. So last summer sometime, I was cursing a spider that had spun a big web through a path, when a wasp flew up in a leisurely way, and hovered for a second and then BAM empty hole in the web where the spider had been.

I'm kind of conflicted in my feelings about wasps now.

But get me in an enclosed space with one and I'm going smashy berzerk.
posted by Existential Dread at 4:01 PM on May 4, 2016

Hair spray works great on angry wasps and yellow jackets. Their wings stiffen and they instantly drop to the ground where you can use more conventional methods of dealing with them.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:02 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I will concede the use value of wasps in their place. Their place, as it happens, is not my bedroom, nor is it trapped in the neck of my blouse (ow owww owwwww owwww OWWWW).
posted by thomas j wise at 4:10 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

So, am I the only person on the planet who:

a) humanely lures bees and wasps outside by making the house dark and opening a door or window on the sunny side of the house?
b) got stung, only to find myself mellowed out, like I was high or something?
posted by Michele in California at 4:11 PM on May 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

I was petrified of wasps until I got stung on the foot couple of years ago. It hurt like all holy FUCK but then when it got better I was like "Meh. I lived. They're not so bad."

My Mum hates them with a passion though. Last summer she had put out all these homemade traps that she'd made after googling how to kill as many as possible. So basically large plastic drinks bottles with the top cut off and inverted (so they could easily fly in but not out), filled with lemonade and washing up liquid (to lure them in and then poison them), taped up and hung outside. I was at her house one day and they were just full, heaving, with dead and dying wasps and it felt so cruel. I was like "they're outside! Leave them alone!" She was unmoved. When I went home I tried to find some facts to make her take pity on them. She remained unmoved.
posted by billiebee at 4:12 PM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

Get stung haters

but I did already, right in the eyelid!
posted by Hoopo at 4:53 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm cool with bees. I don't mind honeybees or bumble bees. And I always wait until I'm certain those annoying wood-boring bees have left their holes before I plug them with a dowel.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:57 PM on May 4, 2016

I sat on one once. Couldn't really be mad about getting it in the cheek, still called it a jerk.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:19 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Most wasps don't "bug" people, it's just a couple of species that are aggressive and love things like beer and people houses. I really like taking pictures of the more shy species like potter wasps.
posted by melissam at 5:21 PM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

As I'm sure I've said on previous vespian threads, I used to get really wound up by wasps having been stung as a small child in a scene that is forever in my permanent internal store.

Then I had to deal with hornets, as in having one stuck in a small space with me, and now I don't give a fig about wasps. I still have that hornet in a small clear plastic box mounted on foam as a hunting trophy, because by god I glory in that victory.

But yes, having once come back from a business trip to find my front room full of wasps, as a nest in the roofspace had somehow broken through the ceiling, I am not shy of obtaining and using full-on chemical warfare. Evolution has to count for something, right? Even if I had to buy the insecticide from a Hindu shopkeeper who tried earnestly to persuade me not to use it. Hey, lady, you stock it, I'll spray it.
posted by Devonian at 5:40 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I lived in an apartment once where wasps started getting inside as the weather got cool. They were crawling in through a very small crevice I never quite found, and appeared to be weak and disoriented. Once I woke up in the very early morning to find one on my chest, on the duvet. It was stumbling.

There was a curious peace in that moment. I did not feel fear or horror, just a great open floating.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:35 PM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

b) got stung, only to find myself mellowed out, like I was high or something?

Even though there's a dearth of clinical studies backing them up, there is a vast profusion of anecdotes about how bee stings help with autoimmune problems.
posted by jamjam at 6:35 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

My turning point on wasps was when my buds and I played a pickup baseball game in a park where there was, in all seriousness, hundreds of brown wasps buzzing around the grass of the ballfield. We all walked over a couple beers deep, saw the wasps and said "fuck it lets see what happens." We played for 3 hours and not a single one of us got stung. They just did whatever they were doing around us as we played the game. So props the brown wasps in Candler Park, they're chill af.
posted by dudemanlives at 7:02 PM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

I am perfectly OK with bees and wasps but on New Years Day 2015 I woke up to find a Japanese Giant Hornet in the room. I quickly evacuated my wife and kids and then spent a nerve-wracking 15 minutes or so coaxing it out a window. My one regret is not taking a picture of it but I was kind of busy. Would not want to get stung by one of those.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:40 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't have a problem with wasps because they are wasps, but I do have a problem with things that have shitty attitudes about what is and is not appropriate, and wasps are just tone-deaf to proper social mores. Like, you can have a few nests around the place, totally cool, this land is your home too, but do you really gotta build it right on my squat rack, or dangling from the doorframe where it is obviously going to get bumped someday? Goddamnit wasps have some common sense.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:51 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Most of the wasps they're talking about don't look much like yellowjackets though. Mostly they're small, black and skinny. There are exceptions.
posted by sneebler at 7:53 PM on May 4, 2016

I was pretty live and let live about wasps until one stung my then girlfriend repeatedly on her vulva during a camping hike. It's been extreme prejudice in places I hang out ever since.
posted by Mitheral at 9:04 PM on May 4, 2016

Ooh, I did some reading up on various wasps last night. Truly fascinating and horrifying stuff.

I've been stung by a yellow jacket and a bee, and neither was a big deal for me, so I'm not afraid of being stung. That doesn't stop me from being out squicked out by and afraid of them. Insects are just so damn alien in a way that cuts right through all my logic and compassion and goes straight to my primal fear button. I do feel terribly guilty every time I kill one. I was actually in tears when I resorted to mass murder in order to get rid of an ant invasion many years back. I think maybe that makes it worse.

On a bit of a tangent: we live in an area where you can pretty much assume the bees are Africanized, so the biannual Safety Talk with our wee girl includes a quick review of how to behave around bees and what to do if you get stung by one while other bees are around.

(Anybody else having Starship Troopers flashbacks?)
posted by moira at 9:17 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm cool with wasps doing pest control, but they do not get to come inside the house. A shot of Formula 409 Antibacterial Kitchen spray will drop a wasp out of the air like watching a brick fall. (That stuff also kills cockroaches at two paces.)
posted by bryon at 1:14 AM on May 5, 2016

Ugh, this thread. My husband is phobic of wasps, and my mother is allergic to them - and and even they're not bloodthirsty (hemolymph-thirsty?) for their doom. Wasps are damned important. It's one thing to remove a badly-placed nest, or deal with home infestation. It's another to destructively kill things, just because you can't deal.

For myself, I haven't been stung by a wasp in 23 years. The last time a wasp stung me, it was because I stepped on a fallen nest - which makes it a bit hard to blame the wasp? And back when I worked in a bakery, I'd sit outside for my lunch break, and sometimes a yellow jacket would land on me to snack on the sugary glop on my skin and smock. I was never stung by any of these yellow jackets, either.

Not that people shouldn't exercise caution, because wasps are certainly unpredictable. But it's definitely not as cut-and-dried as "must gleefully kill, or I'll be stung because omg arse daggers."

Post is great, by the way.
posted by Coatlicue at 11:51 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

brb just registering omg arse daggers as my new sock puppet
posted by billiebee at 12:20 PM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's one thing to remove a badly-placed nest, or deal with home infestation. It's another to destructively kill things, just because you can't deal.

EXACTLY!!! If I had a thousand favorites, I'd give them all to this comment. Bless you Coatlique!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:49 PM on May 5, 2016

Unless a person has reason to believe they could have serious allergy issues, I think the sprays are way more dangerous than the wasp's venom.

I've been stung on my hands by yellow jackets a few times, and on the one occasion where I could get a good look at it (because I was holding something delicate I didn't want to drop and the wasp actively resisted being blown off), I was amazed how its abdomen flexed and contracted like a subminiature bellows as it stung me.

But what really startled me was how much the sting felt exactly like one of the many minor electric shocks I've given myself over the years -- so much so that I was driven to wonder about some kind of tiny electric eel of the air thing going on with wasps in general. My skin didn't react to the venom at all, if there was any.
posted by jamjam at 1:13 PM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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