Wasps could be just as valuable as bees for their contribution to ecosystems, according to research.
The study in Biological Reviews was based on more than 500 academic papers looking at how 33,000 species of stinging wasps contribute to their ecosystems and how this benefits humans and the economy.
It found that wasps can be used as pest control in developing countries with minimal risk to the environment. They regulate populations of arthropods, such as aphids and caterpillars that damage crops.
Wasps are expert pollinators and pollination by insects is vital for agriculture – its importance to the economy is worth more than $250bn (£180bn) per year worldwide.
Wasps can also be useful for medication – their venom and saliva have antibiotic properties and yellowjacket wasp venom has potential for treating cancer.
Wasps can even be a valuable food source – their larvae are already harvested for food in some countries.
The study’s lead author Prof Seirian Sumner, from UCL’s Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, said: “Wasps are one of those insects we love to hate, and yet bees – which also sting – are prized for pollinating our crops and making honey.