In The Beneficials…Part One, we focused on beneficial “True Bugs”…Assassin Bugs, Ambush Bugs and Predatory Stink Bugs, also known as Hemipterans. In this edition, we will introduce beneficial ants, bees & wasps (Hymenopterans).
Let’s start with ants. Scientists say there are over 12,000 named ants and possibly two to three times as many waiting to be discovered…That’s incredible! So, why are ants beneficial? Ants do a wonderful job tunneling through the soil. This tunneling aerates the soil, brings nutrients to the surface and aids in the circulation of rain water below the surface. Harvester Ants help disperse seeds as they carry them back to the colony, often dropping them along the way. In the nest, some seeds may even sprout and grow. Another important benefit of ants is they prey on all sorts of bugs such as caterpillars, flea larvae, ticks and just about any other critter they can overpower. They are also extremely efficient at cleaning up dead insects and small animals that die on the ground.
How about those bees, the pollinators? It’s hard to dispute how beneficial they really are. Most of us know how wonderful and beneficial Honey Bees are to certain crops they pollinate and we all love the honey, but did you know they only pollinate a small percentage of flowering plants? It’s true! Beetles are the main pollinators, performing over 80% of the work in nature. Other bee species jump in and pollinate, as well. For example, we have Bumble Bees and Leafcutting Bees sharing the load.
Let’s not forget about wasps. I bet you didn’t know wasps pollinate, as well! Yes, and they do a lot of it. On any warm fall day, check out the Goldenrod plants. They will be covered with wasp species. You’ll see Chalcid Wasps and Scoliid Wasps, along with several other wasp species.
There are wasps that parasitize other insects and insect eggs. The Ensign Wasp lays her eggs in the ootheca (egg case) of large cockroaches, such as the American Cockroach. Other wasps, like the Spider Wasp, collect spiders, bury them in a hole and lay eggs on the paralyzed spiders for their larvae to feed on when they emerge. Mud Daubers collect spiders to feed their larvae, as well. Potters Wasps and Paper Wasps feed their larvae caterpillars. Now, don’t you find that interesting?
What would we do without these beneficial ants, bees and wasps? We would certainly be battling pest insects all by ourselves and good pollinators we are not! However, sometimes ants such as Red Imported Fire Ants and wasps like Paper Wasps may become a nuisance and a possible threat to the wellbeing of people and animals nearby. When this occurs, control may be necessary.