As uninvited picnic guests, they are the pest of every late summer, their restless flight putting us all in a tizzy as we fear their burning stings. Rightly so. Not only by their ability to sting, social wasps undermine outdated gender roles. For every spring, a single queen sets to work building a nest for her yet-to-be-born state. But there are also stories of tame wasps whose beauty overwhelms, or of human-animal creatures that fuel erotic fantasies as Wasp Woman, for example. Often referred to as the wild, anarchic counterpart of the well-behaved honeybee, it's time to give this tantalizing yellow-and-black hymenoptera her due: In his portrait, Michael Ohl, one of Germany's leading wasp researchers, paints a multifaceted picture of a helpful ecosystem service provider, an intelligent insect and an evolutionary stroke of luck that we should do everything we can to protect in the face of insect mortality.
Michael Ohl, born in 1964 in Westphalia, is a scientist at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, an adjunct professor at the Humboldt University Berlin and a passionate wasp researcher for many years. He researches topics in evolutionary biology, systematics and taxonomy, and the history of science.