Experts create a buzz as they reveal why we should love wasps

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Undoubtedly wasps are one of the most hated insects, making summer picnics and trips to beer gardens slightly less fun, but experts have now revealed that the "astonishing" pest is vital to our ecosystem.

Wasps play a vital role controlling pests and without them garden plants and crops would be stripped bare. The insects are natural predators for a range of pests that plague gardens and farms, including greenfly, caterpillars and flies.

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The yellow jacket wasp (the variety that plagues us each and every summer) eats a whopping 8kg of prey each season, said Dr Seirian Sumner, a leading expert on wasps. According to her "back of an envelope calculation", this amounts to a huge 14 million kilograms of insects each summer in the UK.

As well as getting rid of the bugs we hate, wasps have another important role: as a food. Around three billion people across the world regularly eat insects, and wasps are very high in protein.

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Dr Sumner, an entomologist at Bristol University, was discussing the importance of wasps during an event at the Cheltenham Science Festival with zoologist Jules Howard and biologist Professor Adam Hart, who described the insect as "astonishing".

There are 100,000 species of wasp across the world - from the common yellow jacket to the fearsome tarantula hawk wasp - and 9,000 different types in the UK.

Asked for the top tip for getting rid of wasps from a picnic, Prof Hart recommended swatting them but Dr Sumner suggested a less lethal method.