Bees and wasps are both important: bees pollinate wild flowers and crops; wasps regulate arthropod populations, including those which transmit diseases and crop pests. Despite the importance of both groups, bees are universally loved while wasps are universally despised. A recent study explores the reasons behind this.
The authors gathered data from 750 members of the public on their perceptions of insects, including bees and wasps and compared this to scientific research effort on bees and wasps. Unsurprisingly, the results show that wasps are indeed universally disliked by the public and are also unpopular research subjects for scientists. Words used to describe wasps are emotive and negative, whilst those describing bees are functional and positive. A low level of interest in nature and a lack of knowledge (among the public) and research effort (among scientists) regarding the ecosystem services of wasps are likely to be at the root of the negative perception. Whilst the ecosystem services of bees are well understood by the public, those provided by wasps are poorly understood. They suggest that positive action to promote research on wasps and to overhaul the public image of wasps could help to reset the imbalance in appreciation of two of the world's most ecologically important taxa. Cultural shifts to a more positive attitude towards wasps could be pivotal in working with these facets of natural capital, rather than against them.