Unlike bees, wasps are considered as nuisance and dangerous insects, but researchers said that these creatures are also important in pollination and in warding off pests.
In a new study published in the journal Ecological Entomology, Seirian Sumner from University College London, and colleagues conducted a social media media survey to investigate public perception of bees and wasps.
Bees are highly regarded because of the crucial role they play in pollinating plants, but this does not seem to be the case with their wasp cousins.
The researchers wanted to find out if there is truth to the general consensus that people hate wasps. Their survey, which involved 748 individuals from 46 countries, revealed that people indeed hate wasps.
While participants of the survey commonly associated the words “honey”, “pollination”, and “flowers” to bees, the researchers found that the words commonly associated with wasps were “annoying”, “sting”, and “dangerous”.
“It’s clear we have a very different emotional connection to wasps than to bees – we have lived in harmony with bees for a very long time, domesticating some species, but human-wasp interactions are often unpleasant as they ruin picnics and nest in our homes,” Sumner said.
The researchers said that people’s perception of wasps is unfair because these insects are just as ecologically useful as bees. Wasps also pollinate flowers and kill pests.
“They’re natural pest controllers. They take huge numbers of insect prey off our crops and off our plants,” Adam Hart, from the University of Gloucestershire who was not involved in the study, told Newsweek.
Sumner said that the problem is due to wasps having bad press. People are generally unaware of the good things that these creatures do so they are seen as a nuisance instead of an important ecological asset.
“People don’t realise how incredibly valuable they are,” Sumner told BBC News. “Although you might think they are after your beer or jam sandwich – they are, in fact, much more interested in finding insect prey to take back to their nest to feed their larvae.”
The researchers also found that wasps received far less attention than bees from research scientists.
Of the 908 research papers on these pollinating insects that Sumner and colleagues analyzed, 2.4 percent were wasp publications and 97.6 percent were bee publications. Of the 2,543 sampled conference abstracts on bees or wasps from the last two decades, 81.3 percent were about bees.
The researchers said that a public relations campaign may help restore the battered image of wasps. They also said that the public will have a better understanding of the importance of these insects once scientists get to appreciate them more and provide more studies on their economic and societal value.