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Garden Allies: Hunting Wasps

Articles: Garden Allies: Hunting Wasps

Most gardeners are enthusiastic in welcoming beneficial insects to their gardens. Lady beetles, lacewings, and even bees of all stripes are enthusiastically encouraged to take up residence. But bring up the advantages of hunting wasps prowling about the garden, and generally, there is a long pause. However, consider this: while bees provide us with pollination services and honey—a critical and delicious contribution—hunting wasps help control populations of pest insects in gardens.

The hymenoptera, which include bees and ants, are incredibly diverse in form and life history. Wasps have chewing mouthparts, and a life cycle of complete metamorphosis; their larvae are grub-like or maggot-like. The female ovipositor is often well developed, and may function as a stinger. Many insects mimic the formidable stinging wasps—among them flies, beetles, and butterflies. In common with most other hymenoptera, unfertilized eggs develop into males, while only fertilized eggs develop into females.

California yellowjacket (Vespula sulphurea) Illustration: Craig Latker

Differentiating between parasitoid and hunting wasp...

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