Wasps are valuable for ecosystems, economy and human health (just like bees) - University of East Anglia

Image credit: Prof Tim Blackburn, UCL
Image credit: Prof Tim Blackburn, UCL

Wasps deserve to be just as highly valued as other insects, like bees, due to their roles as predators, pollinators, and more, according to a new study from the University of East Anglia and UCL.

The study, published in Biological Reviews, compiles evidence from over 500 academic papers to review how roughly 33,000 species of stinging (aculeate) wasps contribute to their ecosystems, and how this can benefit the economy, human health, and society.

Ryan Brock from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Alongside other insects, many wasp species are declining from factors such as climate change and habitat loss. As such, there is urgent need to address their conservation and ensure that habitats continue to benefit from the far-reaching ecosystem services that wasps provide.”

Lead author Prof Seirian Sumner, from UCL’s Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, said: “Wasps are one of those insects we love to hate – and yet bees, which also sting, are prized for pollinating our crops and making honey. In a previous study, we found that the hatred of wasps is largely due to widespread ignorance about the role of wasps in ecosystems, and how they can be beneficial to humans. Wasps are understudied relative to other insects like bees, so we are only now starting to properly understand the value and importance of their ecosystem services. Here, we have reviewed the best evidence there is, and found that wasps could be just as valuable as other beloved insects like bees, if only we gave them more of a chance.”

Wasps are top predators of other insects. Predation by insects – as biocontrol to protect crops – is worth at least $416 billion (US) per year worldwide. Yet, this figure almost completely overlooks the contributions of hunting wasp predation.

The review highlights how wasps’ role as predators makes them valuable for agriculture.

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Posted On: 29/04/2021

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