If we set a thief to catch a thief, then why not set a bug to eat a bug? Sometimes the best way to control an outbreak of an insect pest is to use another insect, or a close relative (such as spiders). Ladybugs, the most famous of these insect killers, are wimps compared to some of the other predatory critters in your garden. Lacewing larvae, ground beetles, praying mantises, wasps, hover flies, spiders… there are plenty of beasties who are more than happy to keep garden pests under control.
I’m sitting quietly at my desk as an unidentified insect makes an orbit around my head, buzzing aggressively. What in the…? It changes direction, aiming directly for my eyes. I want to flail at the bug, but realize that may not be a good idea, so I jump out of my chair and out of the way. Buzzzzzzz…. It finally lands on the wall and I get a good look. Yikes! It’s a yellowjacket!
Moments later, there are two wasps circling my screen, then three, and four. It seems that every yellowjacket in the neighborhood has somehow found a passage into my house, and they’re ganging up on me.
Aliens have invaded Colorado. Once again, a non-native species has moved into our territory and established a thriving population. In this case, it’s the European Paper Wasp (left). You can read all about it at the Colorado State University Extension website.
In this case, having this new insect in town is a mixed blessing. Although they look a lot like a yellow-jacket, European Paper Wasps aren’t aggressive; they can sting, but they seldom do. On the down side, they’ve been known to go after the sweet juices of ripe fruit such as cherries, and pose a threat to the orchards on the Western Slope.