Laura Goldsmith

Don't spray the wasps! Using Polistes paper wasps for pest management in the home garden

Pest control poses a challenge to all gardeners, especially those using organic practices.  We examine the possible potential use of Polistes paper wasps as a bio-control agent in the organic backyard garden.  Polistes are important predatory insects which may potentially consuming thousands of soft bodied pest insects per season. We set up 8 garden plots measuring 3ft by 8ft each.  In each plot we planted a small garden with leaf lettuce, cabbage, pole beans and tomatoes.  In 4 experimental plots we established 8 Polistes dominulus nests by transferring wasp nest from the surrounding area. In the 4 control nests, there were no wasps. We measured the extent of damage from insect pests, the abundance of pest insects, and the dry weight of the plants at harvest. So far, we have harvested the leaf lettuce. The lettuce matured before the colonies where established, so as expected, we detected no differences between the plots with wasps and the plots without wasps.  While it is still too early to have results from the other three vegetables, there seems to much more damage and caterpillar activity on the cabbages from the plots without the wasp boxes. Based on our preliminary work so far, it appears that Polistes wasps may prove to be effective in controlling pests for some but not all crops common to the backyard garden.

Faculty Mentor: Michael Henshaw, Biology

Page last modified July 22, 2011