Can Wasps and Their Kin be Pollinators?

Oh boy. If I thought folks didn’t like–or were terrified of bees–let’s not even bring up the rest of the hymenoptera order: wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and that group (which interestingly enough includes ants, which is probably why we have those stinging fire ants!). But that group also includes bees so you know you’re onto something when I talk about “wasps and their kin.” But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a brief blurb from the USDA to back me up.

So yes, the “less friendly” flying insects in our yard are also pollinators, which means that to the extent you can, you should try to ignore them. This does not mean you should put yourselves or your families in danger from these sometimes more aggressive creatures.

But I find that until much later in the season, wasps and related creatures–hornets, yellow jackets, etc.–whatever you call them in your part of the country–generally are more focused on hive building and pollination than they are on stinging. Of course I said generally. There are always exceptions–like if you happen to step on a nest while mowing.

But knowing how to behave when a random creature approaches you is also key. As hard as it is to do–and I find it extremely difficult to do this around wasps, hornets and bats–do not wave your arms or swat at the thing. It seems as if every morning when I walk my dog a hornet seems to want to investigate my head. I find if I just continue doing what I’m doing–moving in a slow, deliberate manner, and NOT waving my arms at all–it just flies around me several times and goes away.

Do I want to bat the thing away, particularly as it’s flying at my face? Of course! Sometimes I even have to close my eyes. But I know anything I do to make it angry is only more likely to make it sting me, and more likely to make it send out the pheromone that will call other hornets to its aid. And I sure don’t want that.

So I stay calm and keep walking slowly (obviously I’m walking the older dog here) and the hornet flies off after what seems like an eternity but is really only probably a matter of seconds. It can go on to pollinate and the dog and I can go on, unaccosted, for our walk. All is right with the world!

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