I know I’m not overly keen on broad beans, but there they are again in my garden, standing tall and festooned with a multitude of flowers. On warmer days it is nice to see the big fat fuzzy bumble bee and the honey bee with his pockets full of pollen darting in and out of the long tubular flowers, drinking in the nectar in exchange for a spot of pollination.
But I’ve also noticed something a bit more sinister. The broad bean plants are full of paper wasps. When I say full I don’t mean hundreds of angry buzzing nasty wasps, but about a dozen docile sleek black and yellow insects on my four plants. I decided to watch for a while to try and figure out what the attraction was as they didn’t seem to be entering the flowers like normal bees do.
What I saw seemed to be a spot of daylight robbery. They appeared to be sticking their beak into the base of the flower and sucking out all the nectar, completely bypassing the pollen exchange system. I vaguely recall reading about this somewhere, but I can’t remember where I saw it.
So I did a bit of looking about on the great big internet and now I am conflicted. I hate wasps. I was stung three times last year and each sting reacted worse than the one before as I ballooned and itched for a good week or two after. But they say they don’t seem to mind you unless you get too close, although I definitely didn’t put myself in harm’s way on the days I got stung.
I also discovered that it would most likely at this time of year to be queen’s loitering on my broad beans, supping on the nectar and getting energised for the season ahead. This doesn’t bode well as that means each one may go off and form a nest somewhere not too far away.
But this is where I’m conflicted. While the paper wasps can cause significant damage in large numbers to your wooden structures as they source materials for their nests, the most common diet isn’t nectar, but other insects and in particular caterpillars, but they’ll eat anybody – including aphids and anything that will give them a protein kick. Although they don’t seem to mind who they eat and it would be great to think of them eating the cabbage white caterpillars, but I’m not so happy about them feasting on the monarch caterpillars. They are in enough trouble of their own without being decimated by wasps. But aside from that, maybe they are ok to have hanging around the garden? I just wish they wouldn’t sting me!
Oh I don’t know…. How can something with the potential to be really helpful in the garden also have the capacity to be so nasty. I really don’t want to be stung again this season. What are your thoughts about wasps? Friend or foe?
Come again soon – I’ve dug and I’ve weeded and my seedlings are growing well.
Sarah the Gardener : o)