The next time you take a sip of your favourite wine, beer alongside a crusty bread roll, you might want to make a toast to wasps.

Why? Because quite simply, they are responsible for the yeast we use to make wine, beer and bread.

Research* has shown that wasps and hornets bite the grapes and help start the fermentation while grapes are still on the vines. They do that by spreading a yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commonly known as brewer’s yeast and responsible for wine, beer and bread fermentation, in their guts.

When the wasps bite into the fruit, they leave some of that yeast behind. Other insects and birds also carry the yeast, but wasps play a special role as they harbour the yeast during winter and can pass it on to their offspring.

Wasps also introduce other microorganisms to the grapes, which add flavours to wine.

Perhaps more than any other insect, wasps are desperately in need of a change of image and public opinion. They’re are extremely important in our environment and face problems similar to those faced by bees and other insects.

This is a wonderful example of just how everything is linked, how connected the natural world is, and how us humans rely on these interconnections in ways we simply cannot perceive.

A practical way to play your part is to plant ‘pollinator-friendly’ wildflowers including Red Campion, Moth Mullien, Primrose, Oxeye Daisy, Basil, and Dandelion to create a sustainable environment for these struggling insect populations. Read more on this here.

So, the next time you find a wasp making a bee-line for your wine, beer and bread remember if it wasn’t for them you wouldn’t be enjoying these goodies in the first place!

* https://www.pnas.org/content/109/33/13398