Sunday, 8 June 2014

Spot the Pollinator

Everyone is hearing about the importance of pollinators to the world's food systems in the media these days, and the threats to their existence. Most people think about honey bees when they hear pollinators, but there are many other insects who contribute to the pollination of flowers. Along with honey bees, there are hundreds of bees native to North America who carry out the important task of pollination. My lawn is full of digger bees and I am trying to help nurture some mason bees in my backyard. But other insects carry out the act of pollination as well, such as flies, butterflies, moths and beetles.

Are Wasps Pollinators?

One pollinator that most people are unhappy to see are wasps. Yes, they can be aggressive, particularly as the summer comes to an end, when they are grumpy and their food supplies begin to dwindle. Until I spent more time in gardens observing the insects that visit and populate the plants I didn't realize that wasps visit flowers. They may accidentally pollinate when they are hunting their prey in flowers, but it turns out they also drink nectar!

But Aren't Wasps The "Bad Guys"?

I have long been terrified of wasps. I was stung repeatedly, in fact dozens of times at once, when I was a young child and inadvertently disturbed a large wasp nest. As I have become more passionate about organic gardening, however, I have come to appreciate the wasp. The mere sight of them can cause people to scream and run away. But they are an important part of the ecosystem. They are carnivores who hunt for pest insects that may eat our plants. They are everywhere, and as the summer wears on their numbers increase, so if you can't beat them, join them, so to speak. I have even been able to get close enough to some to take their photos, something that I consider quite brave because of wasps' renowned aggression.

Of course I still get frustrated with wasps in the dog days of summer when they swarm around us as we eat our dinner outside. But I have a new appreciation of this much maligned insect.

Spot The Pollinator 

My spot the pollinator photo is a bald faced hornet, taken on my raspberries.

I am linking up with The Green Bean Chronicles who is hosting the Spot the Pollinator segment. Pop on over and visit her.


  1. Tell me you did not take that photo with your phone?!? If you did, you have got some serious magic going on. Regardless, it is an awesome pic! Thank you for sharing your appreciation of wasps. I did not know all that but I did know that they are beneficial. Happy to welcome them into my garden.

    Thank you for participating! :)

    1. Haha, yes it's taken with my iPhone, and editing with some photo apps. Thanks. :-)

  2. I don't know. The local apiary we visit most summers always complains about wasps. They say that the wasps are super aggressive and kill the peaceful bees. I'm sure they are an important part of the ecosystem, but I have trouble loving a stinging insect that attacks bees.

    1. I totally understand why you feel that way. Wasps are very aggressive. I do not like wasps when they make nests in and around my kids' play equipment or in our attic, or when they sting my little four year old (she's been stung once for each year of her life). However, once I began observing their behaviour in my garden, and researching about them, I began to appreciate the roll they play. I see them similar to sharks that are the bad guys of the ocean. We are now beginning to understand why sharks are necessary in the ecosystem, and I do believe that wasps are important as well. One thing I have learned is that wasps become more aggressive as the season progresses once their numbers increase (the nest does not hibernate, most wasps die off each year and the few wasps that hibernate repopulate the nest) and their food sources dwindle, which is when they begin to bother us when we eat outside. August and September is when they begin to become very aggressive and then we learn how to avoid them. As for the bees, yes wasps are their predators. I will be bringing in my mason bee cocoons around mid summer before the wasps become more numerous and begin to feed on the mason bees.