Despite some recent posts in that vein, I don’t want to turn this blog into just an outlet for my frustrations about the lack of science/evidence in otherwise well-meaning conservation initiatives. However something caught my eye at the weekend that I feel I have to comment on.
Friends of the Earth has recently posted a very well-meaning piece about why we should stop hating wasps and learn to appreciate them. I whole-heartedly support this: wasps are one of the least understood and most under-valued aspects of local biodiversity, and the article makes some very good points.
But there are also some aspects to the article that make me cringe and add a new layer of inaccuracy to a subject already flooded with crass statements such as “what use are wasps”:
- The first photograph in the article does not show a wasp: it’s a syrphid fly, specifically a species that mimics wasps but is other wise harmless. These flies do not sting or bite.
- “Wasps pollinate figs” – yes they do, but fig pollinating “wasps” are tiny and only distantly related to the kinds of wasps you’re going to see in a British garden. In any case they do not pollinate commercial edible figs: these wasps spend much of their life-cycle within the fig and who wants to eat a fig full of insects?
- Having said that, the sorts of wasps the article is referring to ARE important pollinators of a whole range of plants, including some orchids, umbellifers, ivy, etc. That’s not mentioned at all.
- The piece misses out the fact that wasps are part of a whole ecological guild of scavenging animals that includes ants, various birds, etc., which plays a valuable role by removing vast amounts of waste organic material from our towns and cities every year. They also perform a similar function in natural ecosystems.
What’s frustrating about Friends of the Earth’s article is that there are any number of individuals and organisations out there who would be happy to fact-check such a piece, including Buglife, BWARS, and a range of scientists and well-informed specialists in natural history. Why doesn’t Friends of the Earth make use of them?
As I’ve said before I don’t use Twitter, so if anyone wishes to tweet this at Friends of the Earth, please go ahead.