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Wasps are often portrayed as one of “the bad guys” in the insect world. But part of that common misconception comes from a lack of knowledge or understanding about wasps in general and stereotypes that don’t apply to most wasp species.
The truth is that wasps are extremely diverse and what most of us think of when we think of a “wasp” makes up only the tiniest percentage of all wasps out there. In fact, there are likely many different species of wasps that haven’t even been identified yet. And wasps play an extremely important role in the ecosystem – one that is often overlooked and not well-understood.
In this episode of the Backyard Ecology podcast, we are joined by Louis Nastasi who is a self-proclaimed ambassador for wasps. Louis is a PhD candidate at Penn State’s Frost Entomological Museum which is Penn State’s research collection of insects and other arthropods. He also founded and is one of the instructors for the Wasp ID Course, which will have its second session in January 2023.
During our conversation, Louis and I dive into the fascinating diversity of wasps, especially parasitoid wasps, and their vital roles in the ecosystem. Louis believes that a lot of the misconceptions around wasps are due to a lack of recognition of just how diverse wasps are. Contrary to popular belief, most wasps aren’t capable of stinging people and many are the size of a speck of dust.
Like with the first episode that Louis was on, our conversation takes many twists and turns. We talk a lot about parasitoid wasps and just how amazing it is that many of these parasitoid relationships developed in the first place. (One of the wasps we talk about lays its eggs in diving beetle eggs which are found underwater!) We also discuss how much we don’t know about these species and how much there is still to learn. But through it all, Louis’s passion for wasps and wasp education shines through.
- Louis’s contact info:
- Email: LFN5093@PSU.edu
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/toomanywasps
- Wasp ID Course
- Other Resources:
- Forbes, A.A., Bagley, R.K., Beer, M.A. et al. Quantifying the unquantifiable: why Hymenoptera, not Coleoptera, is the most speciose animal order. BMC Ecol 18, 21 (2018). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12898-018-0176-x
- Wasps: Their Biology, Diversity, and Role as Beneficial Insects and Pollinators of Native Plants [hardcover] Heather N. Holm February, 2021 * : https://amzn.to/3fMZAho
- Wasp related video clips (including the fairy wasp one) from Life in the Undergrowth hosted by David Attenborough:
- Life in the Undergrowth hosted by David Attenborough (Full Documentary)*: https://amzn.to/3zYkGQU
- Related Backyard Ecology Resources:
- Galls: Amazingly Diverse and Fascinating Plant Growths: https://www.backyardecology.net/galls-amazingly-diverse-and-fascinating-plant-growths/
- American Pelecinid Wasp: A Unique and Fascinating Critter: https://www.backyardecology.net/american-pelecinid-wasp-a-unique-and-fascinating-critter/
- Wasps: Victims of an Often Undeserved Reputation: https://www.backyardecology.net/wasps-victims-of-an-often-undeserved-reputation/
- Four-toothed Mason Wasp: https://www.backyardecology.net/four-toothed-mason-wasp/
- Cicada Killers: Not as Menacing as They Appear: https://www.backyardecology.net/cicada-killers/
- Eastern Red Velvet Ants: Doesn’t Kill Cows and Isn’t an Ant: https://www.backyardecology.net/eastern-red-velvet-ants-doesnt-kill-cows-and-isnt-an-ant/
- Backyard Ecology
- Subscribe to Backyard Ecology emails: https://www.backyardecology.net/subscribe/
* Amazon links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying Amazon purchases made the link. The commission is paid by Amazon and comes at no extra cost to you, but helps support the costs associated with hosting the Backyard Ecology blog, podcast, and website.
- A species of Ichneumon wasp, one of our many parasitoid species.
- Photo credit: USFWS Midwest Region, public domain
Do you want to make your yard more pollinator and wildlife friendly, but aren’t sure where to start?
Check out my book, Attract Pollinators and Wildlife to Your Yard: 15 Free and Easy Ways, for some easy, quick wins to get you started.
Backyard Ecology: Exploring Nature in Your Backyard
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, beekeeper, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at www.backyardecology.net.