Drop The Wasp Spray And Back Away Slowly. . .

This is a PSA in defense of my favorite friends: wasps.

While standing in the garden section at Home Depot, I observed two shoppers filling their carts with Ortho Wasp Spray, and heard the dreaded commentary:

"I'm gonna kill them ALL. Every last one of those SOB's."

This is a very sad way to think about such a complex, intelligent group of insects who happen to be one of the best workers at my nursery.

I am not a scientist but what I offer is daily experience observing the intricacies of insects and their relationship with my nursery and my plants. So, I've included two studies in here that confirm my ideas about wasps.

Before we had air conditioning in the packing building, we had to work with the garage bays open. Wasps LOVED to nest inside the opened bay doors. Despite the raised eyebrows from employees, I refused to allow anyone to harm them. We would have to work directly under these nests and share our space in this world.

Over time, the wasps learned to recognize us - specifically me and two other employees, and determined we were not a threat. However, if someone else came in they didn't recognize - they would posture in threat stances and even start to fly around. They were clearly able to distinguish between different human beings. 

If they can recognize each other, why couldn't they recognize individual people? This study from Cornell delves deeper in the topic.

Paper wasps rapidly evolved ability to identify faces

Nobody got stung. The wasps tolerated our presence, and when a new person came in - they only gave warnings, expressed their anxiety but never hurt anyone.

This, to me, is intelligence. It deserves a closer look and admiration at these social creatures. 

A study from the University of Michigan shows that wasps DO exhibit a form of intelligence called transitive inference.

"Essentially this means they can work out that if is X is greater than Y, and Y is greater than Z, X is greater than Z – an ability that was thought to be a key human trait for thousands of years," says evolutionary biologist Elizabeth Tibbetts. 

Read more here:

Never underestimate a wasp – new study shows they’re smarter than we thought

After these profound observations, I started to notice other things these helpful critters were doing around the nursery. 

I saw them flying off with those darn oleander moth caterpillars that kept eating my adeniums. I saw them parasitizing the fat green ones that eat EVERYTHING - some wasps lay their eggs on their backs which hatch and devour the worm.


I saw them visiting flowers I had no idea how to pollinate - resulting in fat, healthy seed pods. Thanks guys! 

Here's another regular old gardener that shares my view. 

Bees are in deep trouble, we all know that. Wasps can fill in so many niches - pollination, predation. They're your best friends, too. 

Aww, the wittle face...He's cute! 

Put the can down and back away slowly. We don't have to mass murder a creature just because it might sting us at some point in our lives. For all the wonderful work they do - it's worth a few stings to me. But they don't sting me anyway. Respect !!



  • Beautiful Story

    Your story is fascinating Kate. I love your love for nature. I look forward to visiting again next spring.

  • Beautiful Story

    Your story is fascinating Kate. I love your love for nature. I look forward to visiting again next spring.

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