Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Wasps Purpose

Name: Teneil
Status: student
Grade: 4-5
Location: DC
Country: USA
Date: Summer 2011


Question:
What is a wasps purpose in life.I made a club to find out what animals and insects purpose in life and we got stumped on this insect.We asked our parents and friend and other people and they didn't now either.



Replies:
Teneil

You can find a cool comparison chart in Wikipedia at this URL:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characteristics_of_common_wasps_and_bees

This can give you some idea of how wasps are different among themselves and bees.

In general, your question can be answered by stating that wasps fill an ecological niche. That is, there is this place in the grand scheme of things that allows organisms like wasps to thrive. To explain this better, you could ask what do wasps eat. The chart shows that wasps eat other insects, overripe fruit, sugary drinks, human food / food waste, meat and other insects.

Here is another interesting article about wasps:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wasp

Mike Stewart


This is a common question, but I think is the wrong way to look at wild creatures. Wasps don't have, or need to have, a "purpose" in the human sense, they are just a part of natural ecosystems. But within a system, each species does have a role to play. Wasps are such a large and varied group that it is impossible to answer your question for them in total. You would have to look at each species and how it fits into the food webs and other parts of its home system to say what role it plays. Some are pollinators, some are scavengers, some are predators, many are food for other creatures. It is a long, amazing list. I hope you keep asking questions and spend some time looking for answers.

J. Elliott


We tend to think of wasps as a nuisance, especially when they sting. But believe it or not, they’re very important parts of the ecosystem. The ecosystem describes how plants and animals interact with the environment. Just like people, wasps have jobs that they do especially well. One job is pollinating plants. This is one role that they share with bees.

Wasps can also keep other insects from getting out of control. They do this two ways. One is by acting as a predator, actively hunting and eating insect prey. Many of these insects are pests in the garden and on the farm, so they’re doing us a favor. Another way that wasps help manage pests is by acting as parasitoids. We usually think of wasps as large insects with painful stings. Most are actually very small. They use their stinger to lay eggs either inside or outside a pest host. These eggs hatch into larvae which eat the pest – while it’s still alive! Look up a parasitized tobacco hornworm on the internet. This is a green caterpillar that wasps like to lay eggs on. In time, the hornworm dies and the larvae develop into adults. They then complete the cycle again.

Wasps can also act as scavengers, eating animals that have recently died. In this way they help to decompose and recycle nutrients in the environment for other organisms to use. Wasps also serve as an important food source for other creatures higher on the food chain. So despite their aggressive reputation, wasps keep the ecosystem functioning. It’s important to respect them and let them do their job.

Dr. Tim Durham Instructor, Office of Curriculum and Instruction University Colloquium Department of Biological Sciences Florida Gulf Coast University


Click here to return to the Zoology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory