Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

My Dad is a clever man, a bit too clever sometimes but clever none the less. However, when it comes to summer timeyou will see him flailing around his garden getting crosser and crosser. With gusto you will hear him shout ‘What's the point of b*!?@y wasps?’. This is a question that many al fresco diners may ask themselves this summer as they panic, clutching their fizzy drink, rushing to put the lid on the ketchup or trying to cover up their burger.

But I believe wasps have many redeeming features and should be celebrated - much to my Dad's dismay. Life is tough if you are a wasps  - they are only after a sugar fix. Worker wasps feed on sugary liquid secreted by their larvae, but in late summer this starts to run out and they are forced to search elsewhere for their sugar supplements, such as at BBQ’s and picnics.

Get this Dad...wasps play a vital role as pollinators and in the natural control of pests in the garden.

Often called ‘jaspers,’ wasps fall into one of two main categories: solitary wasps and social wasps. It is the social wasps we are most familiar with around the picnic table. Social wasps are also incredible nest builders, and make their homes from chewed up wood fibres moistened with saliva which feels a bit like papier mache. Their nests are intricate and complex, often with many tiers, and are extremely light.

Continuing the theme that wasps have a tough time, they are also a valuable food source for other wildlife, such as flycatchers which bash them against branches to remove their sting and guzzle them down. Dragonflies will take their chances with wasps as a snack too. There are just eight species of social wasps and around 230 species of solitary wasps. Adult solitary wasps live and operate alone, in contrast to social wasp colonies which number up to several thousand.

So this summer, instead of the usual advice of stop fussing around a wasp that is sharing your outside dining, stop and think that if it wasn't for them what would I have to be smug about with my Dad.

For more information on wasps visit www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife. For the more knarly ones amongst you who want to encourage these down trodden stripey gems visit www.rspb.org.uk/hfw.

Photo credit: Common wasp by Chris Shields (rspb-images.com)

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