Hey wasp, get off my broad beans

I know I’m not overly keen on broad beans, but there they are again in my garden, standing tall and festooned with a multitude of flowers.  On warmer days it is nice to see the big fat fuzzy bumble bee and the honey bee with his pockets full of pollen darting in and out of the long tubular flowers, drinking in the nectar in exchange for a spot of pollination.

Broad bean flowers
Judging by the number of flowers it is going to be a bumper season for broad beans. I’m not so sure this is a good thing.

But I’ve also noticed something a bit more sinister.  The broad bean plants are full of paper wasps. When I say full I don’t mean hundreds of angry buzzing nasty wasps, but about a dozen docile sleek black and yellow insects on my four plants.  I decided to watch for a while to try and figure out what the attraction was as they didn’t seem to be entering the flowers like normal bees do.

Wasp on broad bean flowers
Umm – excuse me – maybe you might want to go around the front of the flower like all the other insects do…

What I saw seemed to be a spot of daylight robbery.  They appeared to be sticking their beak into the base of the flower and sucking out all the nectar, completely bypassing the pollen exchange system.  I vaguely recall reading about this somewhere, but I can’t remember where I saw it.

So I did a bit of looking about on the great big internet and now I am conflicted.  I hate wasps.  I was stung three times last year and each sting reacted worse than the one before as I ballooned and itched for a good week or two after.   But they say they don’t seem to mind you unless you get too close, although I definitely didn’t put myself in harm’s way on the days I got stung.

Paper wasp on broad beans
Seriously – will you stop it – you are putting holes in my flowers – goodness knows what damage you are doing to my beans.

I also discovered that it would most likely at this time of year to be queen’s loitering on my broad beans, supping on the nectar and getting energised for the season ahead.  This doesn’t bode well as that means each one may go off and form a nest somewhere not too far away.

Paper wasp
Paper wasps just look angry… I don’t feel all that comfortable getting this close

But this is where I’m conflicted.  While the paper wasps can cause significant damage in large numbers to your wooden structures as they source materials for their nests, the most common diet isn’t nectar, but other insects and in particular caterpillars, but they’ll eat anybody – including aphids and anything that will give them a protein kick. Although they don’t seem to mind who they eat and it would be great to think of them eating the cabbage white caterpillars, but I’m not so happy about them feasting on the monarch caterpillars.  They are in enough trouble of their own without being decimated by wasps.  But aside from that, maybe they are ok to have hanging around the garden?   I just wish they wouldn’t sting me!

Tiny broad bean pod
The first of the crop are beginning to make themselves present.

Oh I don’t know….  How can something with the potential to be really helpful in the garden also have the capacity to be so nasty.  I really don’t want to be stung again this season.   What are your thoughts about wasps?  Friend or foe?

Come again soon – I’ve dug and I’ve weeded and my seedlings are growing well.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


5 thoughts on “Hey wasp, get off my broad beans

  1. Wasps are the foe.They kill our Bees and our Honey Bees and Bubble Bee and any other thing that they can,especially the Beautiful Monach Butterfly.We have some Swan Plants around the border of our vegetable garden and also lavender plants to attract Bees and Bubble Bees ect,and we spend all Summer Season trying to keep them safe from several types of Wasps.They are predators and they kill all insects including the good and benifecial ones.Praying Matis,Lady Bugs,Spiders help by killing insects that eat our Vegetable plants.If you see the little cream coloured cccoon that the Praying Matis lays in April or May you will see the Spiders often put a web around the cocoon and wait through Winter until
    The babies hatch in Spring.they are so defensive and small most of them get stuck in the webs.The ones that survive and become fully grown have scissor like pinchies on their front 2 legs and they can break through Spider webs and get to the Spiders so the tables are turned an the original attacker be comes the victim.I have seen a fully grown Praying Matis grab a Wasp from behind when it was trying to kill a Bee.She held it in the middle so it could not reach her with its deadly sting,she was carrying eggs at that time and that meal would keep her going for 2 days.The P/M can eat many aphids,juvenile passion vine hoppers,caterpillars ect in a day.Great to have in a Vegetable garden.Wasps must go!🍅

    1. I do find it difficult to reconcile myself to the nastier aspect of the garden. I hate coming across flatworms when digging in the garden because I know they are hunting down my earthworms. I think, as the pest insects are always going to be there, then we have to encourage beneficial insects in greater numbers. And if a wasp kills a caterpillar on my cabbages before I kill it then I guess we’re even.
      Cheers Sarah : o)

  2. I know the wasps help with pollination and keeping bad bugs down, so I’m not at war with them, but I don’t like ’em. I tolerate them as long as they aren’t nesting near the house or anywhere else in the way. We have a sort of truce, the wasps and I. They just need to stay behind their line. 😉

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