Ecosystem services provided by aculeate wasps

Ryan E Brock, Alessandro Cini, Seirian Sumner

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Abstract

The aculeate wasps are one of the most diverse and speciose insect taxa; they are omnipresent across ecosystems and exhibit diverse co-evolutionary and exploitative associations with other organisms. There is widespread conjecture that aculeate wasps are likely to perform essential ecological and economic services of importance to the health, well-being and nutritional needs of our planet. However, the scope and nature of the ecosystem services they provide are not well understood relative to other insect groups (e.g. bees, butterflies, beetles), and appreciation of their value is further tarnished by their public reputation as pointless pests. Here, we conduct the first comprehensive review of how aculeate wasps contribute to the four main areas of ecosystem services: regulatory, provisioning, supporting and cultural services. Uniting data from a large but previously disconnected literature on solitary and social aculeate wasps, we provide a synthesis on how these insects perform important ecosystem services as parasitoids, predators, biological indicators, pollinators, decomposers and seed dispersers; and their additional services as a sustainable alternative to meat for human consumption, and medicinal potential as sources of research leads for anti-microbials and cancer treatments. We highlight how aculeate wasps offer substantial, but largely overlooked, economic benefits through their roles in natural pest management and biological control programs. Accordingly, we provide data-driven arguments for reasons to consider the ecosystem service value of aculeate wasps on a par with other ‘useful’ insects (e.g. bees). Finally, we provide a research roadmap identifying the key areas of research required to capitalise better on the services provided by these important insects.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberBRV12719
Pages (from-to)1645-1675
Number of pages31
JournalBiological Reviews
Volume96
Issue number4
Early online date29 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Keywords

  • biological control
  • economic value
  • pollination
  • predation
  • stinging wasps

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