What is the purpose of wasps?

What use are wasps? A perennial question. “Why did God make wasps?” is even asked as a theological poser – usually as a rhetorical question that can’t be answered. It is a question that comes with its own implied criticism – after all, nobody would ask “what is the purpose of butterflies?” (zero Google results at time of writing, vs. 838 for “what is the purpose of wasps?”). The suggestion is that as wasps are no use to humans, their existence is puzzling. A rather human-centric view. It also goes without saying that there are far, far more mysterious creatures than wasps upon this earth – and they don’t all seem to benefit humans either.

The Asian Giant Hornet, Vespa mandarinia
The Asian Giant Hornet, Vespa mandarinia


Anyway – now wasps do have a purpose. What a relief! Entomologist Joe Lewis, and agricultural engineer Glen Rains at at the University of Georgia have devised a pleasingly low-tech method to use wasps to sniff out all sorts of chemicals.

“So far, they’ve been able to detect, to some level, any chemical that we’ve trained them to,” Rains tells DBIS. Training is simple and quick. The wasps are fed sugar water. At the same time they’re introduced to a smell for 10 seconds. The process is repeated two more times. Lewis says, “We can train a wasp within a matter of 10 to 15 minutes.” For example, a set of wasps is trained to detect the smell of coffee. When they are put into a simple container, a tiny web camera watches their actions. When the smell of orange is pumped into the pipe, nothing. But when it’s coffee, the wasps crowd around the smell. So far, Rains and Lewis have not found anything the wasps cannot be trained to detect. They can be trained to detect everything from drugs to human remains to fungi on crops. They could one day even be able to detect deadly diseases like cancer.

This is obviously pretty useful – and pretty easy. Watch out, dogs – wasps are on your tails! See a video demonstration of this technique in action here.

24 thoughts on “What is the purpose of wasps?”

  1. Hello everyone,
    It took years but I did it!
    I just wanted everyone to know that I have finally mastered the 3 cups technique, and will
    be happy to teach anyone interested to learn it. just let me know.

  2. I love animals and against all killing,… but, I kill the wasps. I get the spray and wait till it is cool outside and they are in their nests and then nail them. Sorry to those of you offended, but, I guarantee you the wasps/yellow jackets we have here attack us and our horses all the time. They have nests everywhere and if I do not drive my truck for even 3 days, they create a nest in the door handle and when i go to open it, they all swarm and attack. My daughter only walked outside and made a mistake of passing too close to a stump they were nesting in, and she was attacked severely, they were even in her hair, stinging her as hard and often as they could, while she was crying and I was trying to get them off her. My son, is stung at least once a week, and I even had one go up inside my pants, how i do not know, I had on sweats, elastic top and bottom, and this one was on my thigh stinging me over and over until I could get my pants off and kill it. They are nasty, vile and since we have no crops around here, I do not know why they are here, but I do all I can to eliminate them. I have even had the horses stung so badly they needed the vet and steroid treatments to take down the swelling.. they attacked one stallion on his penis and he could not even pee.

    No, no sympathy from me, and I save moths, bugs, you name it, but the wasps… no way in hell.

    To help w/ the wasp stings, we bought a clay poultice for the horses and keep it in the house and barn and the kids smear this one the stings and it cools and soothes and draws out the poison.

  3. Each and every living thing in this world has been created for a purpose some we are aware of and some are yet to be discovered.

  4. Wasps are pest and serve no purpose, they should all be killed. I recommend the inverted 2 cup approach, catch em right at the point where their wings meet.

  5. In britain wasps are ok , I dont like them much because of their very good sense of smell they can be very annoying when your drinking a nice cold beer or chewing on a salmon sarnie but other than that they are quite harmless . I can understand peoples fears though if they are allergic to stings . The way to not get stung is to not breath in their direction . They are attracted to warm breath and if one gets panicked and breaths into their direction as well as shaking their arms about in a crazy fashon the wasp will see you as fair game as he will think that he is being attacked by you . Wasps are clever . I found out that if you save a wasps life as I did back in 1988 from drowning in a Spanish swimming pool , they fly off and tell the intire wasp community and finaly it becomes world wide news on wasp TV and they hold you personaly as a wasp friend and a human hero . Honestly , this works . Never been stung . x

  6. For those laying into Candice about killing the wasp’ nest (that were invading her doorstep! You know, the place you use to enter and exit your HOME!), instead of using the “two cup” method should really think before they post. How can you use the Two Cup method to remove a whole nest of wasps? AND, where exactly are you going to release them? They are already outside! Surely that would entail special ‘armour’ so you don’t get stung, and then transporting all of these wasps, presumably to another place where it would become somebody else’s problem. This doesn’t sound like an easy feat at all, and hardly fair on the poor unsuspecting people that get lumbered with a wasp infestation.

    Multiple wasp stings can land you in hospital, and, can even lead to death, however unlikely this may be. That also does not include the unlucky person who finds that they are allergic, too late! Yellow jacket wasps are extremely territorial and aggressive social wasps! Not a good thing to have close to your home, or indeed, on your doorstep! After all, do you know absolutely everybody that is going to knock on your door? And can you guarantee that they are not going to be stung by “getting too close” to the wasp’ nest, which may cause the wasps to get intimidated causing them to feel the need to protect their home.

    Also, those talking about the religious ramifications of killing wasps, and that they are only evil because of a sin that was committed a long, long, time ago. Should think about “turning the other cheek” and “forgiveness,” it does not now sound right that the whole world and all its inhabitants should suffer for eternity because of this, that’s not very “forgiving” and can hardly be said to be “turning the other cheek!” I’m not criticizing your religion, but who is it for YOU to say what is right and what is wrong, are YOU the ones who are to judge these people? And do you know these peoples lives at all, like what was their greatest deed? NO, you don’t! But yet you feel it’s okay to pass judgement on these people for a single action. “judge not, lest ye be judged” springs to mind. The word prejudice comes from; to prejudge a person before you know them, and it is extremely hypocritical to do so, and then preach religion.

    I wouldn’t worry Candice, you did the right thing. You wouldn’t have felt any better if you’d have left them there and then for someone you cared about to be stung, like a child, and to possibly be seriously harmed. That’s definitely a risk that I’d not be willing to take. I know door to door sales people can be annoying, but you wouldn’t wish them any harm, would you? I’m all for live and let live, but not at the expense of safety. I mean it is your doorstep and wouldn’t you feel even more guilty if you’d have left them there, and then for someone to be hospitalized because of this?

  7. I am learning a new technique at the moment,
    using 3 cups. It’s proving to be quite hard, but perseverance will pay surely.

  8. Anyone can go to heaven if you have faith in god , but that doesnt mean that you can go breaking the 10 rules(sinns). And you dont go to hell just because you killed a wasp, I mean, people kill flies almost everyday.

  9. Candice,
    I cannot believe you killed them.
    You killed life.You have sinned. And you run the risk of burning in hell forever for this. I hope this does not happen to you however.
    Maybe in your next life you will become a wasp too, and get sprayed as well.

    1. Are you for real? We woke up at 3am and hundreds of wasps were swarming in my house. My daughter was stung many times.. yes we had the wasps sorted out. Since when was a wasps life more important than a humans. Trying to scare people with threats of burning in hell is much worse in my opinion!

  10. Hello Candice,

    I recommend you learn the technique of catching
    wasps with 2 cups, then releasing them far far away from your house so that the mailman does not get stung.

  11. I just had a wasp nest under my front step sprayed, they were flying out at about face height as you approached the step, I need someone to tell me it was the right thing to do, cause I feel bad about killing anything, but I didn’t want a mailman or paper carrier to get stung

  12. Unlike honeybees, they are quite dangerous because yellowjackets can keep on pumping venom out of their stingers for a long time once they sting you. Here in southern regions of the US, mild winters have not been cold enough to kill the yellowjackets over the season, so they keep building their nests until they get large enough to fill abandoned cars.

  13. Most wasp species are predators. Their function is in the control of many other insect species. They are actually very effective parasitoids, and because of this efficiency they have been used for decades as biological control agents. Many crop pests including hornworms and scale insects which cost millions of dollars in loss annulally are controled by wasps. Without these predators, tomatoes, oranges, tobacco, and many other important crops would be so scarce that the price of them would skyrocket. Their method of efficiency is that they will lay one egg on the back of a caterpillar, and throught the process of polyembrony, the egg multiplies itself, producing hundreds of larvae. These larvae hatch, kill the caterpillar, and pupate. Once development is compltete, the newly formed wasps will emerge and go out in search of their own caterpillar to deposit eggs on.

  14. I too agree that we should not kill wasps!!

    We should all learn the technique of capturing wasps in cups and releasing them into the wild.

  15. OH! I love wasps!
    they are lovely creatures, very colourful
    I have a colleague at work who catches them with
    2 cups and release them into the wild, whenever one flies into the office.
    He is such nice guy! never want to kill life.
    Wasps is a form of life too..

  16. All evidence from wasp behavior, biology, genomics, etc. points to only one purpose for wasps – to make more wasps. They have no other reason for existing and have been well designed for this one purpose.

    The Ranger responds: assuming one agrees that they need to have a purpose – and that they need to be designed…

  17. When God created everything in the beginning (about 6,000 years ago and in 6 days – see Genesis 1), everything was very good. There was no death, no suffering, no pain. There was no bloodshed, no flesh-eating. Lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!), and even T. rex, ate plants (Genesis 1:30)! If by chance you think that sharp teeth means an animals eats meat, consider the teeth of the fruit bat, the panda, and the Langour monkey.

    In response to the question about why God made wasps, They are helpful pollinators for many plants. Their stings would not have been harmful prior to the fall of Adam. When Adam and Eve sinned, the whole creation was cursed. God is just and must punish sin. Now in this world, we have death, disease, pain, sorrow, and bloodshed. Everyone since then has been born a sinner, doomed for everlasting punishment in hell (Romans 5:12). But God has made a way of salvation. If you are interested in learning more about the creation viewpoint, check out and, and if you would like to know how you can be saved from the penalty of your sin, contact us at

    The Ranger responds: what about lice? what did they eat?

  18. Hi Jan! I’m about to post an article about hornets on the Wildlife Garden blog with my thoughts on why they seem to scare the living daylights out of everyone. Hornets are uncommon,and they are more docile than wasps. They occasionally come into my house and I just catch them against a window with a glass and a piece of paper and release them outside. Seeing as they are so high up in your eaves, and minding their own buzzness (sorry), your neighbour has more chance of stepping/sitting on a bee than being attacked by a hornet. I would feel privileged to have them. Live and let live – you’re not being silly!

  19. I have a question – not a comment.
    My neighbor and I are having a friendly debate over hornets. I have three hornet nests just underneat my house eaves – way too high for me to reach them. They never bother me. In fact, I never see them around. They pretty much stay in their nests.
    I see no point in killing them, just because they are hornets. My neighbors says she is “highly allergic” to bees (this from a woman who has every ailment unknown to man)
    and she is TELLING me to kill them.
    I see no point. They’ve been there for a year and have bothered no one.
    Am I being silly?

  20. Wasps are great – they continued pollinating flowers when the honeybees went down with varroa mite, they rid my veg patch of caterpillars, and their appearance at picnics – well, it’s all part of The Great British Summer, isn’t it?

  21. The Theology of Wasps

    The Ranger asks if the existence of wasps might be a subject for theology. Finding a wasp beginning to devour the eyes of a newly dead greenfinch yesterday gave the question a fresh impetus. Beginning with the theology it will depend what sort of thinking about God goes on. If it starts with the suggestion that God made a perfect world wasps present a problem as will crows ripping new born lambs to bits or any other part of the natural world which rangers and the rest of us are dedicated to conserving. No one can doubt that the natural world keeps going by a complex process of predation, destruction and reproduction involving pain and fear. If God made it like a vast lego assembly creating wasps and disease bearing bacteria specifically for the purposes we see as so disturbing he (or she) wouldn’t be an attractive object for worship.

    It the theology begins with different sorts of questions ” why do we think that wasps eating greenfinch’s eyes is bad and then, by extension, What are we here for or even What is the meaning of Liff the discussion takes a different form where the issues are about love and hate, good and bad, right and wrong, truth and falsehood. Ideas of God then needn’t begin with discussions about creation and a confused shouting at one another by two different disciplines but with how humans and human communities can be loving, foster goodness, right and truth and avoid their opposites. This allows the possibility of full appreciation of the natural world including gratitude for the way in which, for instance, the theory of the evolution of species brings understanding of the way we are, pleasure in the brilliant stripes of wasps at the same time that we keep on pegging away at trying to be better people including those who find answers in God who is the expression of perfect love.

    A Hampshire Ponderer.

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