We put this bee house up on our side porch a little over 1 year ago. This is the first time I ever witnessed this much activity. We have always known it was being used by the sand and grit build up in each bamboo tube. But, I hadn't ever caught a glimpse of any hatching, or even more than just ONE wasp or bee flying near it. Today it was quite the buzz! I know, boooo dad joke.
The wasps you see in this video are Red Marked Mason Wasps. Until recently, I really hadn't paid much attention to wasps. I kind of just assumed they were all aggressive flying insects that are just waiting around to light you up if you step too close to their nest. My quest to learn more about garden insects ended up teaching me a lot about these wasps. Like for one, they aren't aggressive jerks. Look how close I got in the video. Check out our write up on these wasps in our Gardening Forum by clicking here:
The other great thing I learned is how beneficial these wasps are to a food producing yard. These wasps are predators of all kinds of insects, but more importantly, they are predators of caterpillars and worms. I am guessing your immediate reaction is probably not too excited about that last part. So let me clear something up. The other great thing I learned is how beneficial these wasps are to A FOOD PRODUCING YARD because unfortunately, they are harmful to a pollinator / butterfly garden.
The difference is that in my edible landscape, the main purpose is to grow food. Do I enjoy watching caterpillars and butterflies in my yard? Of course. Probably more than I'd like my masculinity to admit. But the number 1 goal here is to produce food. Attracting pollinators is a secondary goal to support the number 1 goal. And lets face it. The most common caterpillars in a food producing garden are not the ones who become pretty butterflies. They are the armyworms, the hornworms, the bagworms, the leaf-rollers, and etc who all become moths. All of which are on the menu for the Red Marked Mason Wasp.
Now I can appreciate moths as nocturnal pollinators just as much as anyone else. In fact I typically do my best to ensure I am attracting pollinators of all shapes, sizes, and sleep cycles. But the problem with moth larva aka caterpillars, is how much destruction to food crops they can bring. This is where the predatory wasps really benefit my foodscape's ecosystem.
Earlier this year I had an armyworm infestation on my tomatoes. I looked at them. Looked at my chickens. Thought about pulling off as many as I could and feeding them right to the chickies. Instead, I decided to see what would happen if I let the predators have a chance to come in. What happened was pretty incredible.
2 days. 3 tops. All the armyworms gone. Maybe one straggler. I still had some destruction to my tomato plants. But nothing detrimental and I didn't lose a plant. Damage was limited to foliage in the upper levels of the plants. Some I ended up having to prune main stems back. They all successfully came back as healthy plants. Between the birds, lizards, and wasps, the problem was taken care of. I didn't do a thing. That is lazy gardening at its finest. Plus, now they know that area is a food source so they will be on constant patrol.
So anyway, this is our bee house attracting solitary native bees and wasps to give them a safe home in our ecosystem. What are you doing to encourage your own garden's ecosystem?