A guest blog by Aimee Coates, Volunteer Media Officer for RSPB Local Groups. 

We all love bees! From bee-friendly seed packets and jewellery, to cushion covers and crockery, we just can’t get enough of them, but what about their dreaded cousin, the wasp?

Wasps are often seen as ‘the villains’ of the insect world as they descend on our lovely picnics with a sting in their tail. But our ecosystem relies on wasps and they do much more for us than we give them credit for.

Members of the RSPB Antrim local group have given us some of their top reasons why we should all become wasp lovers.

1) They are a natural pest control
In a single summer, social wasps in the UK consume 14 million kg of insect prey such as greenflies and caterpillars. With numbers unchecked, these species would otherwise blight our crops. 

2) They help keep our gardens blooming
Wasps are great generalist pollinators and deserve praise for bringing colour and variety into our gardens.

 Wildflower garden, credit: (RSPB-images.com)

3) They’re exquisite architects
Around 2,000 years, ago a Chinese court official named Cai Lun watched a wasp building a paper nest in his garden. Inspired by what he saw, Cai Lun experimented with mulching tree bark, nets and old rags until he had perfected the paper-making process. We’ve no idea if the wasp was truly the inspiration for this great invention, but we may just have the wasp to thank for our most important cultural asset.

 Brenda Campbell, RSPB Antrim Local Group Member discovered that wasps had set up home in a cosy bird box.
4) They’re a varied and extraordinary species
There are over 9,000 species of wasp in the UK. They are well-organised, cooperative and fascinating to watch.
Ruby-tailed wasp, credit: Fabbian Harrison (RSPB-images.com)

Rodney Monteigth, RSPB Antrim Local Group member identified this as a tree wasp by the markings on its nose. 
Wasps are unsung heroes and are vital to a healthy ecosystem. That being said, their love of sugar sometimes brings them into conflict with humans. If you do have an overenthusiastic wasp at your picnic don’t panic, here are a few tips on how to gently deter them.
• Keep all food and drink covered - especially sugary varieties. 

• Stay still! It’s true that if you flap you’re much more likely to anger it and be stung.

• Make your own wasp repellent by mixing and diluting a blend of essential oils – clove, geranium and lemongrass are the most effective.

• Where there’s one, more will follow. If you can, trap the first wasp you encounter under a glass while you’re eating your picnic to stop them attracting their friends over and then set it free when you’re about to leave.

Thanks to the members of the RSPB Antrim local group for sharing all their wasp knowledge, love and photographs.

You can find out more about the RSPB Antrim Local Group here: https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/groups/antrim/about/