Authors study they focused on a large group of insects, popularly called wasps – they tried to describe what 33,000 species of these animals bring to ecosystems, and therefore to human society.
Some indications from different parts of the world show that wasps are more resistant than other insect species; while on most insect planets it has declined significantly in recent decades, the wasp may not be much affected. Perhaps because there are still many of them and some species (such as aggressive Asian hornets) even have the potential to become invasive species. They pose a threat to many people. Their stings can be not only painful, but even potentially deadly. Therefore, people are hostile to wasps.
“We don’t mind bees that they give stings because we know what they give us and that they are useful to us,” the study’s author, entomologist Seirian Sumner, told the Guardian. “We therefore mapped different species of wasps, depending on their ecosystem services. We found that wasps could be as valuable as bees – only if we gave them a better chance. “
A study published in the journal Biological Reviews analyzed five hundred scientific reports of wasps that give stings. The authors have worked with the fact that there are about 100,000 known species of wasps, but 70,000 of them are parasitic – they are stingless and well researched. They are even used in agriculture to control pests without the use of insecticides. “There are about 22,000 species of bees. Wasps are the forerunners of bees: so bees are actually wasps that forgot to hunt, “said Sumner.
Using other predatory insects to protect crops will save about $ 400 billion a year, but the use of wasps is hardly being considered, scientists have found. This is despite the fact that research has shown that wasps are the leading predators in the insect kingdom.
Antibiotics of the future?
“Solitary wasps are amazing, their venom has an incredible cocktail that paralyzes prey and it also has a lot of antibiotics in it,” says the entomologist. Many females of these species of wasps lay their eggs in prey, which is not dead, but only paralyzed by a highly effective poison. “So they want to make sure the food is stored properly,” adds Sumner. The antimicrobial properties of wasp venom and saliva, as well as larval secretions, have long been recognized in traditional medicine, and in recent years they have become the focus of modern science.
Many research teams around the world are looking to exploit these unique properties of wasp venom. As early as 2018, for example, they announced scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have succeeded in modifying South American wasp peptides for this purpose – they kill bacteria but are not harmful to human cells.
An analysis by Professor Sumner and her team also revealed that wasps visit at least 960 plant species, where they appear to function as pollinators; of which 164 are completely dependent on pollination. These include orchids whose flowers mimic the sexual anatomy of female wasps – thus attracting males of this species.
Wasps visit flowers to feed on their nectar: the insects they catch are used only for larvae in nests. So far, scientists are not entirely sure if this behavior actually pollinates plants. For some species, however, this is very likely because their bodies are covered with hair similar to bees and are often covered with pollen.
But it is the role of wasps as possible pollinators that are among the topics that have not been sufficiently explored and on which scientists want to focus more. A better understanding of this phenomenon can help at a time when bee colonies around the world are having increasing difficulty adapting to the influences of human society.
Bad reputation is a thing of the past
According to Sumner, it will not be easy to overcome public opposition to wasps. It has a long history and is based on a number of cultural patterns. For example, the ancient founder of science, Aristotle, wrote in Historia Animalium that wasps are among the most industrious animals (besides bees, spiders, and ants) and that they are even political creatures, but that, unlike bees, they have nothing divine at all.
They are similarly negatively depicted in the Bible – there God sends hornets as punishment in three places.