Have you always thought that bees are good and wasps are bad? We explain why that's not always the case!
You probably already know that bees are useful, peaceful insects which you should always protect. You may even know an amateur gardener or two who has gone on to become a beekeeper. Wasps, however, are a different story entirely. They are stinging troublemakers that everyone wants to get rid of. But that reputation is actually undeserved, because wasps can be quite useful in the garden too.
Bees: your friendly garden helpers
Bees are hardworking helpers. They don't just produce honey – they also ensure your garden grows and prospers. While collecting nectar, they pollinate flowers, bushes and trees. They are peaceful, social creatures that work hard, and they only ever sting people in emergencies, as they die once they've used their sting. The sweet little honey bees are the good guys in your garden. But how do you get them to visit your garden?
Here are 5 tips for attracting bees
1. Give them something to eat
If you plant flowers and herbs that bees like – such as winter-flowering heather, yarrow, daisies, bluebells and thyme – they'll start visiting your garden. Bees also really like it when you plant flowers that bloom one after another, as it means they can feast in your garden from spring to autumn.
2. Think about colour
Generally speaking, bees love colourful things. Vivid colours really draw them in, while lighter tones don't get a look in. Bees are particularly attracted to bright yellow, white, blue and violet flowers. Why? Because they see many colours very differently to us: red flowers aren't as appealing to bees because they can't actually see the colour red at all.
3. Looks aren't everything
The more natural your garden looks, the more the bees will like it. Bushy hedges, pussy willow and a bee bee tree will ensure they feel right at home in your garden. Too many ornamental plants will make life difficult for bees – their flowers usually look very pretty, but they tend to offer little nutrition.
4. Use attractants
If bees are avoiding your garden even though you've got the right plants, there are special attractants you can use to attract their attention. You can buy them in specialist stores. They are applied directly to leaves and flowers and make them twice as attractive to bees. If you're after natural attractants, try getting some lemongrass oil from the pharmacy or some bee balm or geraniums, which bees can't get enough of.
Wasps: garden pests
You've barely made yourself comfortable on your terrace with a nice drink or a snack before you receive, one, two, three or even more unwelcome visitors. So much for a bit of peace and quiet. But why can't wasps leave your jam sandwiches or fresh fruit juice alone?
The answer is simple: in autumn, wasps need to give their young queens a lot of sugar-laden food so that they can survive the frost and cold of winter. So it's no wonder that they're so attracted to your coke, ice cream or yogurt.
Wasps are more useful than you think!
Just like bees, wasps do a lot of useful jobs in the garden. They pollinate flowers and contribute to a richer fruit harvest. They're important pollinators for wild plants. Wasps can also help get rid of pests, for example by feeding on aphids and flies. A swarm of wasps can eat between half a kilo and two kilos' worth of insects every day. By contrast, bees are strict vegetarians so they don't really help when it comes to pest control.
5 tips on how (not) to handle wasps
1. Refrain from hectic movements and wild fidgeting with arms. Also do not try to go over to the attack. Wasps react aggressively to blows.
2. You plan a picnic outside? Then offer the wasps some fruit or something sweet, but keep them at least five to ten metres away. That way you can keep the animals happy and have some peace and quiet.
3. Did you know that? Wasps detest basil. With this plant - for example on the balcony or terrace - you keep the animals at a distance.
4. If you find a wasp's nest, it's better to keep your distance. Wasps protect their territory by stinging anything and anyone that strays too close. But what should you do if you discover a wasp's nest in the middle of your garden or even in your house? First of all, keep calm and don't panic. The good news is that a swarm of wasps only lasts for one summer. Old nests are never inhabited again. If there's a nest very close to your front door, you may want to contact a specialist. They can either change the wasps' flight path or remove the nest so you can get in and out your property unimpeded. Warning: never attempt to remove an inhabited wasp's nest yourself!
5. Stop wasps from entering your home: by installing fly screens on the windows, you can avoid unwelcome guests.
… by the colour: bees are brown and black, wasps are yellow and black
… by the fur: bees have fur, wasps don't
… by the shape: bees have a more rounded body shape, wasps are thinner
… by their movements: bees are slower and less agile in their movements.
… by their honey: bees produce honey, wasps don't.
… by their sting: bees can only sting once, wasps can sting multiple times.
… by the season: bees live through the winter, while wasps only live for up to a year.