Scientists at University College London are trying to make wasps seem more loveable by explaining they are crucial for pollination and should be given the same respect as bees.
Rather than cursing the little stripy fellows when they dive bomb picnics it seems that we should absolutely stop swatting.
The scientists argue that people should learn to live with wasps to the extent of leaving their nests alone rather than calling in the exterminators. The truth is that if people ignore them instead of screaming and flapping their hands around they are very unlikely to be stung.
Dr Seirian Sumner, from UCL, says: “We have lived in harmony with bees for a very long time, domesticating some species, but human-wasp interactions are often unpleasant as they ruin picnics and nest in our homes. Despite this we need to actively overhaul the negative image of wasps to protect the ecological benefits they bring to the earth.”
Bees are facing hard times with viruses up and numbers down and wasps are suffering a similar decline. Yet both species are vital to Britain’s ecology and economy by helping to fertilise crops and flowers as well as keeping down pests and insects that spread diseases. As well as letting wasps alone and avoiding killing them, gardeners are also advised to keep the use of chemicals to a minimum because pesticides are suspected to be behind the sudden collapse in wasp and bee populations over the past 20 years.
The UCL survey found that while people associated bees with “honey, flowers and buzz”, the words chosen to describe wasps included, “sting, pain and annoying.”
Other love-your-wasp tips include not cutting the lawn too short and keeping old and especially hollow trees which are ideal for wasps to build nests in. Let’s hope all our local councils also do their bit by not over manicuring the parks and commons that are such a feature of south London.