The key and the lock - attracting wasps to your garden

I imagine you’re thinking why and earth would I want to do that. Wasps have a bit of a bad rep. You probably think of them as bothering you while you’re tucking into your picnic on a late summer afternoon. Ok, they do do that, but there’s lots to be said in support of the wasp - it really does make a valuable addition to the biodiversity of your garden.

The biggest difference between bees and wasps is how they feed their young. Wasps actually provide animal food for their larvae in the form of other insects they've hunted down. Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds like it could be useful. 

Those insects – we should respect them all of course – but those that really make your life difficult as a gardener. Aphids are top of the list for me and almost put me off growing roses or sweet peas. Another is grey fly which goes crazy for my lupins! Wasps also play an important role in helping pollination as they visit flowers too. Adult wasps of most species drink nectar.

Like bees, most species of wasps in this country are solitary and live in specialised habitats. These might be gaps in dead stems, dead wood or the ground. I’m building a wasp house for my border at BBC Gardeners’ World in June. Hopefully it will be a talking point!

Wasps have short tongues and a few plant species have evolved to attract them. Some top plants on their menu are:

  • Ribes uva-crispa or the gooseberry – one of the first soft fruits to ripen in UK gardens, its fruits are great for humans and wasps love its flowers for nectar. (Pictured above left)
  • Nectaroscordum – these beautiful bulbs in the allium family are very attractive as a nectar source for social wasps, which are possibly their main pollinator. (Pictured above right)
  • Hedera helix – more commonly known as ivy, flowers in late summer and autumn and produces exposed nectar that is particularly attractive to social wasps and their short tongues. 

Keep coming back to my blog to find out about how to help other insects in your garden. This is all in the run up to my BBC Gardeners’ World Live where I’ll be exhibiting my border: “Useful and beautiful.”

Image credits: Richard Becker/FLPA/Minden Pictures and picssr.com