20th of May marks World Bee Day, a day to celebrate the insects that bring nature together and help pollination. You might already know that if all the bees died, it would be calamitous for our ecosystem: numerous plants would die, and mankind would soon run out of many types of food – to say the least.
But what about wasps?
The bee’s uncharismatic cousin, so feared and despised, just happens to be equally important to our world.
More than 110,000 species of wasps have been identified, and yet it appears that thousands more are waiting to be discovered. It might sound scary, but you wouldn’t want to live in a world without these insects. In fact, wasps play a pivotal role in pest control. They are at the top of the invertebrate food chain and capture a large number of arthropods, including spiders, mites, insects, and centipedes. Without wasps, the world would be overrun with these bugs.
Their role as a predator is one of the main reasons why wasps are essential to our planet. As you might imagine, a world that’s overpopulated by arthropods would be very difficult to live in: these insects would have a damaging effect on farming, but they also carry human diseases.
Winemakers, bakers and brewers
Just as they are integral to our ecosystem, wasps also happen to be essential to our cuisine. If you enjoy bread, beer and wine, you need to take care of the wasps: they are the little chefs behind those pleasures!
Yeast is responsible for fermentation. It can only survive warm environments and dies when winter comes. In 2012, a group of scientists from the University of Florence discovered that the wasp’s gut provides a safe winter refuge for yeast – specifically saccharomyces cerevisiae, the fungus we use to make wine, beer and bread.
There is very little scientific information around where the yeast comes from and how it survives in the wild, so this discovery is significant. Wasps have the ability to harbour yeast cells from autumn to spring. It’s only thanks to them that these cells survive, allowing us to enjoy fermented products such as wine, beer, bread and many more.
This yeast, known as brewer’s yeast, is not only good for culinary purposes, but also improves your gut function when taken as a nutritional supplement. It has probiotic characteristics, and is a rich source of chromium, which may help the body maintain normal blood sugar levels. It’s also a source of B vitamins.
If you are keen on finding more reasons to make wasps your new favourite insects, here’s another food delight you’d be deprived of without them: figs. As a matter a fact, there is a species of wasps called fig wasps that are the only pollinator of fig trees! If they were to disappear, this fruit would disappear too. Pollination is another key role of wasps and in some plant systems and environments, they are the most efficient pollinator, surpassing bees.
With all this new knowledge in mind, we hope you’ll appreciate wasps more and start protecting them in the same way you protect bees. These pest-controlling little chefs are a real ally for human health and wellbeing.
So next time a stripy interloper lands on your pint of beer, remember this: nature is ruled by its own balance, and all elements, insects and beings have their own part to play.
Just try not to get stung.
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