Wasps are one of the least appreciated creatures on the planet, but we have always suspected they deserve some respect. We just never investigated why that might be the case. So, our thanks to the Guardian for bringing this book to our attention in an article titled Why we should all love wasps:
Wasps have always had a bad press. But Dr Seirian Sumner, who has spent her life studying them, argues they are sophisticated, socially complex and essential to the environment
In The Wasp Woman, a 1959 B-movie directed by Roger Corman, the owner of a failing cosmetics company becomes the test subject for a novel anti-ageing formula manufactured from the royal jelly of wasps. Janice Starlin, played by Susan Cabot, appears 20 years younger in a matter of days, but inevitably transforms into a monstrous creature – half-woman, half-wasp – who goes on to brutally murder and devour a string of unfortunate men. It mattered not that bees, rather than wasps, produce royal jelly. The Bee Woman? Nowhere near as terrifying.
Unlike bees, which we adore for their honey and waggle dances, wasps have suffered from a poor public image for millennia. In the 4th century BC, Aristotle dismissed wasps as “devoid of the extraordinary features that characterise bees”, adding conclusively, “they have nothing divine about them”. Since then you’d struggle to find a sympathetic cultural portrayal of wasps. Swarms of wasps smite unbelievers in the Bible. Shakespeare warns of waspish behaviour. We disparage the snobbishness of WASPs. The Wasp Woman epitomised the nightmarish (and somewhat sexist) association we have with the archetype. Wasps are narrow-waisted huntresses to be feared. Or at the very least, swatted away.
Professor Seirian Sumner, a behavioural ecologist and entomologist at University College London, believes it is time to draw a line under this sorry history. She has spent the past 25 years studying and advocating for wasps. Aristotle, Shakespeare, The Wasp Woman – it’s all part of a vast catalogue of anti-wasp media that she wearily describes in her book Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps.
In it, Sumner argues that it is time we disentangle the wasp from the lazy tropes that have blighted its character for so long, and states the case for a renewed social, cultural and scientific appreciation for the creature. At last, perhaps, some good publicity for wasps…
Read the whole article here.