I have happy hornets. I have mellow, satisfied wasps. And I have no flies — not white flies, not houseflies, not even aphids — all because I have wasps and hornets.
In fact, I invite hornets and wasps to my yard. Why? Because they keep these and other fly populations and unwanted garden pests in check.
If you watch them — yellow jackets, black baldy hornets, and the rest (Oh, I delight especially in mud wasps!), you’ll see them “hunt” the garden pests and flies, searching them out under leaves and hauling them away to their brood nests. They’ll “helicopter” down on unsuspecting house flies, bot flies, and blue bottles, latch onto them with their legs, and lift off with their cargo. End of fly. Yet they leave “the good insects” alone…like spiders, bees, lady bugs, and preying mantis.
Many folks are afraid of wasps and hornets. Those same folks are amazed when I walk through my yard, maybe disturb several, and, even if they land on me, they don’t sting. Just pause a minute to catch their breath…and my scent, then fly back to their duties.
I have a nest on the big garbage can. And that gave me pause. Because I have to move it once a week so the truck can come lift it, tip it upside down into a dumpster, then set it back down — all mechanized, mind you. Well, the first week, the process knocked their nest loose.
…And they rebuilt!
So the next week, a bit trepidacious, I hauled the thing to the curb. They didn’t even take wing.
Okay. So far, so good.
This time, their nest held. And when I went to haul the can back to its slot? They flew beside me, never landed, never stung. I got it nestled back into its hidey, and they settled in.
Next week, same program. Except this time, one of them hitched a ride on my arm as I hauled it, now empty, back and put it away. Once I was done, she lifted off and scooted onto her nest, her and her mates.
So what’s the secret?
Water is critical for these creatures.
I water my pots every day. The wasps and hornets are delighted. They even land on the garden shower head I use to fill the pots to brimming as I make my rounds. All the neighborhood wasps and hornets join them. it’s like a party — a benign, joyful one. And, of course, I fill the boot drainer (where a bunch of them get water all day long) and the shallow “bug bath” (a small bird bath about the size of a saucer), along with various small, discreet, shallow plant trays I stash about here and there.
All day long during the heat of summer, they ferry water to their nests to cool them. All day long during the heat of summer, I make sure the mud wasps have “wet spots,” and the wasps and hornets have their water trays with “safety leaves” extending into the water in case one of the “new kids on the block” doesn’t extend his landing gear properly and winds up “swimming” for it.
You can always tell the “new kids on the block” — newly emerged members of the colony who haven’t gotten the hang of splaying out their “skids” (feet) to land safely and “skate” the water. They approach, try to judge the water, try to figure out how to land like their older, wiser sisters, and, finally opt for going for the rim or the leaf laying over the lip. After a few demonstrations by their cohorts, though, they soon are landing like pros, setting their feet like a sea plane’s skids, wings just so to catch a breeze. Then, as they load up with water, they let the breezes push them about sometimes, playing sailboat…just for fun, I guess…because they don’t always do it, just then and again. After that, it’s lift-off, and off they get to the nest, only to return a few minutes later to do it all over again…all day long. That’s dedication.
Occasionally, I’ll see one pause, and take a drink for herself, clean her face and antenna, rest a bit, maybe grab a snack of a stray aphid or inchworm, then she’s off to work again.
True joy is a happy garden when all its denizens are well-cared for. And if people wonder at how pest-free my garden, all without any pesticides, at all, it’s because Nature provides.
Be kind to all living creatures. They have a reason of being, and that reason is good for you as well as them.