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Much-Hated Wasps Are Actually Quite Useful for Humanity After All

We love bees and hate wasps, but they're not so bad after all. Unless you're allergic, in that case, it's best to keep your distance.

Back in May of 2019, we reported on a study that indicated that wasps were capable of reasoning and logic. Now, according to a new study published on Biological Reviews, it turns out that these pesky insects are also quite useful to humanity.

“When I tell strangers I study wasps they go ‘oh, what’s the point of wasps?’,” Prof Seirian Sumner at University College London told The Guardian. “Why don’t you study bees instead? They’re much more useful.” 

Summer's previous research from 2018 showed that in general people hated wasps.

"It's clear we have a very different emotional connection to wasps than to bees — 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," explained Sumner at the time.

"Despite this, we need to actively overhaul the negative image of wasps to protect the ecological benefits they bring to our planet. They are facing a similar decline to bees and that is something the world can't afford."

Stop wasp hate!

Wasps have many precious benefits, argues Sumner. They can be used to control pests without using insecticides, pollinate plants, their venom can be used in medical research (ie.  cancer treatments) and they can even be eaten as a meat substitute (technically, it's still meat, but well).

And it's essential that we begin to understand their importance in our ecosystems so we don't see their populations dwindle further.

According to Sumner, wasps visit at least 960 plant species. 164 of those species, including orchids, are completely dependent on them for pollination. You don't need to look much further than that fact to find support for wasps.

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Also, it turns out that most wasps don't sting. According to National Geographic, "most wasps are actually solitary, non-stinging varieties. And all do far more good for humans by controlling pest insect populations than harm."

So, where did wasps get such a bad reputation from? Perhaps, it's the shape of their bodies that leads us to fear a potential sting. It could also be that the many benefits of wasps have not been touted enough. That's all about to change with Sumner's work.

The study is published in the journal Biological Reviews and it takes into account 500 scientific reports on stinging wasps.

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