There are 30,000 known species of social and solitary wasps, and I see several of these here at Cleveland Botanical Garden.
Familiar examples of social wasps include yellowjackets and bald-faced hornets; these insects form female colonies that live and work together and are born from a fertile queen who lays eggs. Familiar examples of solitary wasps are mud daubers and thread-waisted wasps; females are solitary will create their own hives, although some will live in close proximity to other females and are termed gregarious wasps.
Cicada killer wasp gathering pollen protein (and pollinating) on a hydrangea growing on the edge of Oak Lawn. Notice its identifying four stripes.
Solitary and social wasps are carnivorous when in their larval stage. Adult social wasps hunt and kill insects or forage protein to take back to their nests to feed the larvae that in turn produce a sugary substance for the workers to consume. And adult solitary wasps hunt and paralyze insects, but then either deliver their prey to their nests to be sealed in egg chambers or lay eggs on them which then hatch and consume the paralyzed prey.
Stinkbug hunter wasp on that same hydrangea. Three identifying stripes instead of four. It looks like it is hunting!
These predatory lifestyles help wasps contribute hundreds of billions of dollars of protection annually to world agriculture through natural plant pest suppression. For instance, yellowjackets predate on cabbage worms. Predation by wasps helps lower the need for expensive and harmful pesticides. Wasps are also an important source of pollination.
Beewolf wasp in the Kitchen Garden. Notice the chunky curved antennae, broad head and comparatively narrow body.
Wasps are also just pretty insects whether they are yellowjackets with their yellow and black striping or blue mud daubers that shine a deep metallic blue. Their hives are also intricate and interesting whether they are made from paper, mud or dug into the ground. Paper wasp nests in particular can draw attention for their size and structure. And nests are only active until the first hard frost during which all the workers will perish leaving an empty nest that can be collected and preserved for hobby or educational purposes.
Golden digger wasp on a rugosa rose in the Herb Garden.
I have seen all these wasps during my work at the Garden, and when you visit so can you!
Animal Care Assistant
Emily Mago, Animal Care Assistant, began her tenure with the Garden as a Horticulture Intern. And for the last year while working hard weekdays at her degree, she’s been helping Matt Edwards care for our biome animals and arthropods on weekends. You can ask Emily all about our animals every Sunday afternoon at her Creature Features in Garden Room!