General Question

juwhite1's avatar

What are wasps for?

Asked by juwhite1 (2971points) June 15th, 2009

Bees polinate flowers and fruit, maggots clean away rotting debris, leeches are even very useful, but I have no idea what the evolutionary or ecological purpose wasps serve.

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25 Answers

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Wasps are predators that prey upon many of the other insects you don’t like. Is that useful enough for you?

Harp's avatar

It’s misleading to think of the existance of organisms in terms of “purpose” (unless you take a creationist view). All it takes to get and keep a place in the biosphere is a talent for adaptation and reproduction.

juwhite1's avatar

Well, I’m certainly not a creationist, but I can think of a purpose for every single organism except wasps. I don’t have any particular beef with insects, and really like a few of them.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I second Harp’s answer, but if you must have an answer on your terms:

“Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it, making wasps critcally important in natural control of their numbers, or natural biocontrol. Parasitic wasps are increasingly used in agricultural pest control as they prey mostly on pest insects and have little impact on crops.”

From Wikipedia

You know, you can google the general topic before you ask the question, and then you’ll often find the answer you’re looking for all on your own. You know, kind of like self-reliance.

whatthefluther's avatar

For controlling minority, non-w.a.s.p.s , in some cases, apparently.

DarkScribe's avatar

I actively support wasps building nests on my property, both paper wasps and mud wasps. They kill all the bugs in my garden for me. Anyone who likes to avoid chemical sprays should love wasps. I have nine wasp nests currently on various parts of my property.

juwhite1's avatar

Thanks! I feel much better now! Unfortunately, I don’t have any wasps here. Wonder if I can order some?

Garebo's avatar

Scaring and bothering you;besides that, they have the unique ability to sting more than once.

peggylou's avatar

@Garebo: I didn’t know that!! I wonder if that fact is easily found on Wikipedia.

juwhite1's avatar

Ah! The beauty of tapping the collective! ;-) At least this way a few of us get to learn something! Okay, seriously… I’m sure before I ask a question next time, I’ll Google it, poke holes in the answer, then ask a question that is really making fun of the answer.

Garebo's avatar

@peggylou: sure looked like one and it sure felt like one, two times. Maybe it was a hornet. From what I remeber in my forest entymology classes they can be devastating at damaging trees. I know that still doesn’t answer your question. One thing for sure they are probably symbiotic in nature and they definately provide “good eats” for something.

Harp's avatar

@juwhite1 What would you say is the purpose of the cold virus?

andrew's avatar

[mod says]: No need to get snarky, folks.

MissAusten's avatar

@Garebo, I’ve seen a wasp’s ability to sting multiple times up close. My son got a wasp down his shirt as a toddler and it stung him six times. :( Unlike bee stingers, which are barbed, wasps have smooth stingers that don’t get stuck in your skin.

Some types of wasps, like yellow jackets, play a role in pollination. Not nearly so much as bees, although in some parts of the world there are wasps that are important for the pollination of figs. And, as has already been stated, wasps do help control pests.

Read up on wasps, especially those that lay their eggs on live caterpillars or spiders. The “purpose” of these wasps may be to make you so happy that you aren’t a caterpillar or spider.

And, some of them build cool nests, like the pipe organ mud dauber wasp. The female “sings” while adding mud to the nest, using her wings to dry it. Each cell of the “pipe” contains a paralyzed spider. She lays an egg on the spider, seals it up, and when the larva hatches it eats the spider alive. We have a few of these right outside our front door. It’s amazing to watch them build the nests, and they’ve never bothered us.

juwhite1's avatar

@Harp An excuse to call in sick to work.

Garebo's avatar

@MissAusten: Come to think of it, it must have been a wasp that flew up my brothers nose while putting his son in his child’s seat in the car.

btko's avatar

Wow lot’s of cool info on wasps. As for the question, I guess since they help control the populations of other insects that is their “purpose” – like a lion thinning the zebra population.

YARNLADY's avatar

So what are mosquitoes for – wasp food?

DarkScribe's avatar

@YARNLADY So what are mosquitoes for – wasp food?

No, they are for nuisance value.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

@DarkScribe @YARNLADY And lets not forget, for the spreading of malaria and other assorted diseases.

DarkScribe's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities And lets not forget, for the spreading of malaria and other assorted diseases.

I love the way that every now and then they go to extraordinary lengths to convince us that mosquitoes can’t spread AIDS. I remain unconvinced.

Garebo's avatar

“snarky” is a real word! I’ll definitely remember that.

dynamicduo's avatar

Evolution does not have a purpose. Thinking of it that way is misguided. Evolution and natural selection simply refine a creature to perform the best of its abilities in the location the creature resides in.

Way back down the path, wasps/ants/bees were very similar, until they mutated and developed different characteristics. Ants colonize the ground, bees and wasps colonize the trees and air. Many wasps, unlike many bees, have the ability to sting multiple times, are more combat oriented (slimmer body, no fuzz, more articulation of the torso/elongated torso/venom in their stinger). Some are parasitic, some are hive builders.

Check out Wikipedia for introductory articles about all of these species, and pretty much everything else we know about knowledge!

wundayatta's avatar

Wasps are for creating incredible architecture. Wasps are for stinging mammals. Wasps are for building a wasp community. Wasps are for reproduction. Wasps are for the study of humans. Wasps are for the annoyance of humans. Wasps are for eating out your house. Wasps are for keeping you away from their homes.

Oh God. Wasps have so many purposes. What did you really mean by “purpose?”

mattbrowne's avatar

Every animal or plant is part of an time-tested ecosystem.

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