Most people have an aversion to wasps, and a paper nest built on a structure can be a major nuisance. In addition, many people are allergic to wasp stings, making them especially dangerous to those individuals. Many people can see how their ‘cousins’, bees, have a useful role in the ecosystem, but struggle to think of why God would create such a pest as the wasp. In fact, they have important ecological roles to play.
Types of wasps
Wasps belong to the insect order Hymenoptera (Greek: membrane wing), which includes ants and bees. There are about 30,000 identified species of wasp.1
Paper wasps build distinctive nests from chewed-up wood pulp. The nest has individual cells, each of which houses a larva, plus paralyzed insects for the larva to feed on. The queen builds a new nest each year to raise the first generation of workers, after which they take over construction of the nest. Freezing temperatures kill the colony, but the queen seeks shelter and hibernates.2
However, only about 1,000 species of wasp are social and form colonies. The largest (and one of the most dangerous) is the Asian giant hornet, 5 cm (2 in) long. The others are solitary wasps; some species simply find an existing hole such as those created by wood boring beetles, or they build or dig their own nest.3
Many species of wasps lay their eggs on other insects, as well as on spiders, and the newly hatched larvae eat their host. Some species, such as yellow jackets, instead feed the larvae liquefied insects and spiders. A growing wasp colony may remove as many as 1 kg (2 pounds) of insects from a 185 m² (2000-square-foot) area; about 100,000 insects.4 The larvae in turn secrete a sweet substance that the adults eat.5 Once the wasps mature, the adults switch to a diet of flower nectar and other sugary liquids such as fruit juice or other soft drinks (which makes them a nuisance at picnics).
This pest control service is so valuable that parasitoid wasps are specially produced to be released in gardens and fields.6 Without them, pests would run wild, or we would be more dependent on man-made pesticides, to which insects can become immune.7 National Geographic explains, “Despite the fear they sometimes evoke, wasps are extremely beneficial to humans. Nearly every pest insect on Earth is preyed upon by a wasp species, either for food or as a host for its parasitic larvae.”8
Most people associate wasps with their painful sting. The welts can be extremely painful and itchy, and can take a week or so to subside. Furthermore, unlike barbed bee stingers, the smooth ones of wasps do not rip from their bodies, so they are free to launch additional painful assaults. However, humans are not the primary targets for the wasp’s pointy end.
Only female wasps have stingers (though male wasps will bluff when threatened). Evolutionists claim that this is because the stinger started out as an ovipositor—which, as the name suggests, is an organ that helps in laying eggs.9 The stinger still functions in this way in the Chrysididae, also called the cuckoo wasp.10 However, this sort of devolution—the possible loss of the egg-laying purpose to simply become a stinger in many other species—is consistent with biblical creation.11
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