In an article published on the website PhysOrg, University of Delaware entomology professor and bee researcher Debbie Delaney explains that like bears and other hibernating species, in late summer and autumn bees are preparing for winter. They’re working hard to collect enough nectar to tide the nest over for the winter, searching for late-blooming flowers. The lessening daylight of autumn alerts them to increase their efforts in anticipation of the long winter ahead. Beekeepers can help hives that run low on food over winter, but wild bees must provide for themselves.
Wasps, on the other hand, are enjoying a last fling with life during the autumn. By late summer, the queen wasp has quit laying eggs, so the worker wasps are no longer bringing insects back to the nest to feed the young. Instead, the workers now get to focus on themselves, searching for and enjoying sweets and carbohydrates (like your picnic food and beverages) until they die at winter’s first hard frost. Wasps are carnivores, and by eating what we consider to be pests—mosquitoes, flies and beetle larvae – they’re actually beneficial to us, although we’re more aware of the critical role bees play in pollinating a third of the world’s fruit, nut and vegetable crops, as well as flowers. We also appreciate the honey bees produce.
As hard as it can be, it’s best to leave the bees and wasps alone as they hunt for food. There are over 20,000 species of bees in the world; without them, we would lose many of our crops, a catastrophic result. The wasps also play a vital role, helping maintain balance among insect populations. Let them have a bite of your hamburger, or a quick sip of your sugary drink but make sure they’re done and gone before you take your own bite or sip.
Here’s a TedTalk video where Marla Spivak explains why we need bees.