Keeping Wasps in the Garden

Beth Bolles
Extension Horticulture Faculty
Escambia County
bbolles@ufl.edu

Gardens are still in full bloom with many of our favorite late summer and fall flowers. The abundance of flowers also brings many wasp visitors to the garden. Wasps are still busy gathering nectar from flowers and you definitely want to keep these insects around.

Several species of scoliids can be found in most every garden. Photo Credits: Lyle J. Buss, University of Florida

We often associate wasps with a painful sting but the majority of wasps that visit gardens are very helpful in pest management. Even the dreaded yellowjacket will eat other insects that feed on our favorite plants. When wasps are visiting flowers, they should not be considered a threat. It is always good to be cautious so not to accidently contact a stinging wasp when gardening but many that you see are males which do not even have a stinger.

One interesting yellow and black wasp common in gardens is the Tiphiid wasp. We only see the male flying around flowers because the females are wingless. The male has an upcurved spine that appears to be a stinger but is not dangerous at all. These wasps help manage beetle grubs by parasitizing them as food for their young.

Another grub hunter is the Scoliid wasp. It is usually large and hairy with yellow bands on the abdomen. The female wasp burrows in the ground to find a grub for egg laying. She will sting the grub and then construct a cell below it to rear her young. The good part for gardeners is that several grubs may be stung before the wasp lays an egg. To see several species of Scoliid wasps visit http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/wasps/scoliid_wasps.htm.

Learn a new appreciation for wasps in the garden and they will play an important role in natural pest control of garden pests.