5 Crazy Cool Wasp Abilities
5 Crazy Cool Wasp Abilities
1.Heroes of Crops
Wasps are well known for being aggressive and predatory but, luckily for crops, they are known for attacking agricultural pests. Some of these plant destroying pests include moths, beetles, flies, plant lice, etc., and in areas where crops are ravaged by these insects, the wasps are very welcome. During the 1980’s a horde of cassava mealybugs were mutilating crops in Africa until wasps swooped in and managed to save roughly 2 billion dollars in agricultural profits. In fact, their ability to so effectively protect crops have made them a point of interest for scientists and a biological method of pest control to replace harmful pesticides and other insect deterrents on crops.
2. Family Bonds
Just like bees, social wasps live in matriarchal societies led by a queen of the hive and most of their population consists of female workers. These females are hatched from fertilized eggs while males are hatched from eggs that are not fertilized. Due to this phenomenon, a queen who has chosen a single mate and is laying eggs for her worker wasp children, produces wasps who share 75% the same genes with one another. As such, they are automatically programmed to work in unison with one another, making them extremely industrious little creatures.
Wasps can also benefit crops and plants in another way – through pollination. While we normally attribute the benefits of pollination to our friends the bumblebees, wasps can also contributors to this amazing process of life. While many wasps feed on other bugs, entomologist Elizabeth Murray of Cornell University says that adults will often also snack on nectar and pollen from flowers. This practice when done from flower to flower, helps to perpetuate the survival and spread of natural plants within an ecosystem.
4. Helping Win Wars
Not only can wasps sting, but they have powerful and painful bites. They can sink their powerful mandibles into victims and simultaneously sting them, multiple times. Unlike honeybees who lose their barbed stingers and die after the encounter, wasps have smooth stingers that remain intact and can be used over and over. Furthermore, these striped stingers have acutely painful venom that they inject with each stab into their victim. Because of these devastating attacks that wasps are capable of, they were actually utilized as natural weapons in warfare. In fact, in 332 BC during the Siege on Tyre by Alexander the Great’s army, wasp/hornet nests were hurled towards enemy ships in catapults.
5. Wasps in the TSA
Wasps have a surprising ability to recognize and differentiate a vast number of scents as well as possessing keen olfactory senses to detect even very faint or faded smells. This, paired with the surprisingly fast training that is required for a wasp to be taught to associate a new scent, makes them a source of great interest for scientists for how they can be used to help mankind. The primary suggestion that is made is actually utilizing wasps to identify drugs and explosives. Scientists have begun successfully training groups of wasps to identify and respond to the scents of explosives for a sweet, yummy reward. If these trials become operational, it could potentially replace the use of dogs in TSA and people will begin having their suitcases sniffed by wasps.
Wu, K. (2018) Five Real Life Wasp Superpowers Not in Ant-Man and the Wasp, Smithsonian Magazine. The Smithsonian Institution. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-you-should-let-wasp-be-your-hero-today-180969521/ (Accessed: July 2020).