Why Are Wasps Such Berks?

They have cool yellow jackets, but every summer they behave like shirtless louts. Professor Adam Hart helps us understand the windmilling whims of the wasp.

02 why are wasps

Wasps: What’s their problem?
“We’re just in the way as far as they’re concerned; it’s nothing personal,” Hart explains. “The problem is that while we’re 100 percent focused on enjoying the sun, they’re 100 percent focused on collecting food that we’re trying to eat, which leads to some far from positive human-wasp interactions.”

And the whole premeditated buzzing-round-your-barbecue-guests thing and being all intimidating and that?
“To find food and their way back to the nest, wasps fly around landmarks in the environment to get their bearings,” says Hart. “Good landmarks include things that stand out from the background, like fence posts, trees and… you! Of course, when a landmark starts moving, the wasps get confused and circle more intently. And when that landmark starts swatting them, they defend themselves the only way they know how.”

Is there anything good about them?
Per Hart, “Wasps are top predators, pest controllers and important pollinators. Even their venom may turn out to be useful as an anti-inflammatory. Apart from wanting to share our BBQs and beer, there’s nothing bad about wasps!”

What’s the best way to ward them off?
“If one finds you,” says Hart, “many more will follow, so you have to stop that first wave. Trap the first one under a clear cup and you might just stop her from telling her nest-mates where you are. But once they start appearing in numbers the battle is lost, so head inside for a bit. If you do get stung, apply vinegar—it really does help take the pain away.”