Tips from the Help Desk…
by David Austin
Residential Horticulture Agent and
Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator
Friend or Foe?
Many Gardeners might believe them to be the enemy. They wait on their paper nest creations with their wings reared back as they prepare to launch out of the shrubs onto some unsuspecting gardener to inflict their stinger. How could these creatures be anything but evil? So it may seem that the paper wasps have no purpose but to inflict pain, yet, it is only at the nest that they can become vicious. The rest of their time is spent foraging to feed their young. As foragers, they would have to be grabbed or swatted for them to consider stinging you. The answer to the question is both.
A friend in need
Paper wasps are actually beneficial to most gardeners, especially those growing vegetables. They pollinate garden plants as they collect nectar and they are predators of insects that attack plants, including caterpillars. To the butterfly gardener, it may seem a horror that they would cart off their precious caterpillars. In truth, most butterflies lay too many eggs on each plant, and their offspring risk running out of food before they can form a chrysalis. Nature has perfected a balance of things and the meddling of men and women is usually when things go awry. The paper wasp, however testy, has its place in your yard’s ecosystem.
Worth taking a chance on
The paper wasp should be left alone whenever possible. If they build a nest in an inconvenient spot they are easy enough to remove. Newer nests with a single wasp can be knocked down with a broom and its creator will often move on to build elsewhere. Larger nests, that may be in inconvenient places, can be sprayed with aerosol products made for this purpose and with the ability to spray from a further distance. These sprays are often not formulated for spraying on shrubs so take care because they may burn the foliage. Although these wasps may seem aggressive they often tolerate humans if they move slow and deliberate, especially when near their nests.
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