I’m sick to death of seeing misinformed posts like this come up on Instagram and Tumblr! Yes bees are important and super cute but wasps are not the useless jerks people make them out to be!
Wasps, like bees, play an important ecological role – as pollinators, predators and parasites.
Almost every pest insect has at least one wasp species which preys on or parasitises it, thus preventing their populations growing uncontrollably and wreaking ecological and agricultural havoc.
Unlike bees which are typically out and about year round, many wasps disappear during particular seasons or keep to themselves entirely. Only a handful of species nest inconveniently close to human habitation on account of their tendency to scavenge for the dead insects found in abundance around urban and suburban dwellings.
Just like bees, there are many different types of wasps with different temperaments and behaviours. We don’t hate every bee on account of the aggressive tenacity of the Africa honey bee so why are we hating on every wasp because yellow jackets have a bad rap with humans?
Just because wasps don’t make us commodifiable consumables like honey, honeycomb and beeswax doesn’t mean they do bugger all and serve no purpose.
Wasps are just as important as bees and just as cute, damn it, and nothing will ever convince me otherwise!
I just had an amazing, humbling experience with this chunky little fuzzy bumble bee. I went to let my dog out and when I opened the back door, this cutie was crawling very slowly across the patio. After recognizing that she was not a wasp (thank goodness, I didn’t want to have to kill anything today… wasps are jerks and we all know it.) I decided to help her out and get her up off the ground and back to her bumblebee business. (The Beefcake and I later named her Queen of the Bee-zantine Empire.)
I know, I know… “Aurora, why wouldn’t you just leave it alone? It’s not even a honey bee!” Prepare to do some learning. Here’s what I’m going to talk about in this post:
1. Some facts about bumblebees! (Because who doesn’t like facts?) 2. Why bumbles are important. (And plants they help us pollinate.) 3. How to help a grounded bumblebee. (And what I did to help my bumble friend.) 4. How to help non-grounded bumblebees (and honeybees) in your neighborhood! 5. How to tell if it’s really a bumble/honeybee.
Let’s get to it!
1. Facts About Bumbles: To avoid boring everyone (myself included) to death by making this part of the post sound like a long, drawn-out speech full of science mumbo jumbo, I’m going to list some really basic facts and some that I thought were kinda interesting. Bee facts! Yeah!!! - There’s a type of bumblebee called a “Cuckoo Bumblebee” that are brood parasitic. This means they don’t make their own nests, they just go invade another bee’s nest. The queen of the Cuckoos will murder the other queen and lay eggs in that nest and the workers that live and were ruled by the first queen then take care of the invading Cuckoo queen’s babies. I think there’s a Showtime drama television show about this. (I don’t really think there is one, but there should be.) - Female bumbles can sting repeatedly because their stingers don’t have barbs like honeybees do. This means they don’t leave their stinger (or guts) when they sting something! Bumbles usually are defensive and will only sting if they’re in danger or are defending their nest. (The multiple stabs could also be in the show.) - They can fly at lower temperatures than honeybees can, and can forage for their food from flowers that are long and tube-like because they have longer tongues. - Bumblebees produce honey just like honeybees do! That being said, they do not stockpile it so we humans don’t harvest it. - Franklin’s Bumblebee (native to Oregon and California) has been listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature.) These bees like lupine and california poppies so if you have a garden and you live on the west coast, do them a favor and plant some of these things.
2. Why Bumbles Are Important: To make this easy on everyone, I’ll just make a simple list of things bumblebees pollinate for us humans. (PS - Honeybees pollinated 1/3 of the UK’s animal-pollinated crops while the other 2/3 was done by… you guessed it… bumbles.) Here’s a list of fruits and veggies we can thank bumbles for: - Kiwis - Cranberries - Blueberries - Cherries - Pears - Plums - Apples - Blackberries - Oranges - Lemons - Melons (including watermelons, honeydew) - Raspberries - Peaches - Strawberries - Sunflowers - Tomatoes - Peppers - Cucumbers - Squashes and pumpkins
Get the idea?
3. Help Grounded Bumbles: Generally if a bee is grounded it is either hurt, sick, or it doesn’t have enough energy to get up and go. Here’s how you can help!
- GENTLY scoot the bee onto a piece of paper and transfer it to some type of container that air can get into but the bee can’t fly away immediately. I used a little tupperware container, but I left the lid off completely because I like bees and I’m not afraid of or allergic to them. - Find some flowers and put those in there! The only flowers I could find in close proximity to my house were hyacinth flowers, but the bee seemed to like them well enough. - Give your bee friend some sort of sugary solution. Dissolve a little bit of sugar in water, or if you have honey just mix it into some water and give your little bee a drop or two. Do not use artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners are best. - Give your bee friend some water in a dish that has a lip for her to sit on so she doesn’t fall in. This is more of an issue during the summer months when there are droughts and bees can’t always find good water, but I figured I’d list it just for future reference. - Let your bee get better and fly off on their own! Chances are if they were just running on low energy, your diluted sugar solution will give them that little boost they need to fly off.
NOTE: If your bee has a damaged wing it will be very hard to help them. A bee without wings is pretty much useless and it will likely die. It’s sad, but that’s nature and nature isn’t always nice.
If your bee friend has a broken leg it can recover, but just be careful when moving it so you don’t damage any of its other legs.
4. Help ALL Bees: - In the warmer months (spring, summer, autumn) put a little dish of water in your garden so bees can drink it! Make sure the dish has a little lip or edge for them to sit on so they can still access the water but are not in danger of falling into it. - Don’t kill honeybees or bumbles that get into your house! They’re probably just as confused and scared as you are. Put them in a tupperware and transport them outside. (Wasps are a different story…) - If you have a garden/patio that supports plant life, consider planting some flowers or fruits and veggies that bees like to forage from! In return you’ll get healthy little crops and you’ll also feel better because you get to help out our buzzy little friends! Here’s a little chart to help you out with that.
5. How to Identify Bees: I’ll let this picture do most of the explaining.
Bumbles: Fuzzy, fluffy fat babies. Honeybees: Fuzzy bodies, thick legs. Wasps: Don’t get close enough to identify these. If you are unsure from a distance, just assume it’s a wasp and leave it alone completely.