Do Wasps Pollinate Flowers?

Do wasps pollinate flowers?

Quite simply, YES! For many, wasps are seen as a threat and even a nuisance, but they perform vital roles in the eco-system. As a natural form of pest control, they are a gardener's friend, taking crop-eating insects to feed to their young.

I once read that wasps do not pollinate. The reason given was that wasps do not have hairy bodies - the hair being present on bees, enabling pollen grains to stick to the hair, and be transferred from one flower to another. Read more about pollination.

However, this is false. Even the common wasp and German wasp, often the target of pest control companies, do indeed have hairy bodies.

I began investigating this issue some time ago, and the opportunity to do so came, when I found a dead wasp on a window sill of a room that is only rarely used. The body of the wasp had a fine covering of dust, which stuck to the hairs, making the hairs themselves more visible. Indeed, the hair on the black and yellow striped abdomen is so fine, it is almost invisible to the naked eye - and how many people are happy to get too close to a wasp when it is alive? Not many! However, the transparent hair was fine, but quite dense.

Similarily, the thorax of the wasp (upper body) was covered in thick black hairs.

In terms of personal observation, I am convinced that wasp pollination was almost entirely responsible for the abundant crop of cotoneaster berries on my cotoneaster tree in 2011.

I am an observer of all things 'bee', but it seems climate change has altered the flowering times of the cotoneaster tree in my garden. In the past, it was pollinated by bumblebees. In 2011, I noted very few bumblebees on the tree, but many, many wasps working away.

But what about other wasp species and do other wasps pollinate flowers?

Well remember, there are many species of wasps, and again, the answer is yes! Even from the small amount of information we have, we can prove that they do so! There are some species of orchid that are believed to be pollinated exclusively by certain wasps, whilst wasp pollination is vital for figs.

Do wasps pollinate flowers? - The Research
Just to prove that there is further information out there, including scientific papers, I thought I'd include a few references here.

Although in reality, we know little about wasps in comparison to say, honey bees, it's obvious there is more to be discovered about crop and flower pollination by wasps.

When we don't like something (and many people don't like wasps), perhaps humans are sometimes reluctant to admit when it has value. Instead, we go around killing things, and on occasion, we have killed so much, that we have lost species to extinction.

We can't say wasps don't matter, when we speak mostly from ignorance!

Clicking on these links, including the titles of these sections, opens a new window.

Brazilian Study
Here is a quote from the abstract:

    "This work aimed to verify which wasps act as pollen vectors and can make potential pollination in the community of floral visitors of Schinus terebinthifolius Raddi in Santa Cruz do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul. On the flowers of one individual, 1619 insects were collected, where 616 belonged to Vespidae. 55,7% of the total of Vespidae presented pollen grains attached to their exoesqueletum confirming the pollinator habit of some species. Polistes versicolor, P. simillimus, Polybia sericea andP. ignobilis presented large quantities of pollen on their body, beyond high values of dominance and constancy, proving itsimportance on the pollen transportation and potentiality to act as pollinators of the studied taxon."

In other words, this study looked at the amount of pollen carried around by wasps. Not only that, they looked at flowers visited by insects, and found that a large proportion of them, were actually visited by wasps, over half of which were shown to transport pollen!

Wasp Pollination By The Spider Hunting Wasp
There are a number of different species of spider hunting wasp, and they are important polinators. This paper looks at wasp pollination of plants from the hyacinth family. It showed that floral scent played a role in attracting these pollinating wasps.

Wasps Pollinate Orchids
This article is about orchid pollination by the common wasp (you know, the species commonly targetted as a pest!). Many countries benefit from wasp pollination of flowers, and not merely exotic wasps from warmer climates. German wasps also help to pollinate some species of British orchids. For an example, see this article. It states:

    "Pollination is done by two species of wasp, the German wasp and the tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris."

A further study (from Germany) about wasp pollination of orchids can be found here.

Figs And Wasp Pollination
Figs and fig wasps have evolved to help each other out: Fig wasps lay their eggs inside the fruit where the wasp larvae can safely develop, and in return, the wasps pollinate the figs!

Do wasps pollinater flowers? - The Conclusion?
This is just a handful of references on the subject, and yet, the benefits of wasps and wasp pollination are rarely understood.

What else are they pollinating?
Well, we haven't gotten around to studying the interactions of every (discovered) species of plant life, with every (discovered) species of wasp, so the answer is, we don't know! So please spare a thought for wasps. They may be bigger friends than we know!

Go from Do Wasps Pollinate Flowers? to one of these links

Wasp Life Cycle
Go from Do Wasps Pollinate Flowers? to this page about the amazing life cycles of social and solitary wasps.

Wasp Nests
Go from Do Wasps Pollinate Flowers? to this page about wasp nests and how to prevent them if you are afraid of wasps.

Wasp Sting Treatment And Prevention
Go from Do Wasps Pollinate Flowers? to this page explaining how to avoid stings, and first aid, in the event that you should be stung by a wasp.

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Another Study!

A further study regarding wasp pollination - published February 2012. Read More.

How To Kill Wasps

Don’t! It is far better not to kill wasps because you will only attract more of them.

Read about preventing wasp stings

Did You Know?

1 alfalfa leafcutter bee can do the pollination job of 20 honey bees!

Source: US Agricultural Research Service

Read about Leafcutter Bees

Click the button below to view wonderful short videos of pollination: