Overlooked and misunderstood: how urban community gardeners perceive social wasps and their ecosystem functions

Julia M. Schmack, Monika Egerer, Susan Karlebowski, Astrid E. Neumann, Ulrike Sturm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite their importance for agricultural food production, many insects receive little to no positive attention. While bees have become the focus of insect conservation in agricultural landscapes, social wasps still rank among the most disliked animals and their ecological role and the ecosystem services they provide through e.g. pollination and pest control is subsequently understudied. We conducted a survey on the perceptions of social wasps and their ecosystem functions in urban community gardens in Berlin and Munich, Germany. We found that gardeners rated wasps as least beneficial for urban gardens among other insect taxa, and that predation was perceived as a negative function in insects and spiders. Respondent´s emotions were predominantly positive towards bees and negative towards wasps. Trivia questions about wasps revealed that knowledge of wasp ecology was positively associated with respondents´ willingness to share gardens with wasps. Implications for insect conservation: Our results show that urban gardeners´ negative perceptions of social wasps are likely driven by both a lack of knowledge about their ecological functions and a profusion of negative emotions towards wasps. Public outreach and education on the ecological importance of social wasps and other uncharismatic taxa as well as positive encounters with these specieshave the potential to improve their public image and thereby support the conservation of wasps and other insects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-289
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Insect Conservation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • Biophilia
  • Biophobia
  • Human-wildlife interaction
  • Pollinators
  • Uncharismatic organisms
  • Urban ecology


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