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Licking bees and pulping trees: The reign of a wasp queen - Kenny Coogan


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As the sun rises, something royal stirs inside a pile of firewood. It's the wasp queen; one of thousands who mated in late autumn and hibernated through the winter. Now she must emerge into the spring air to begin her reign. This queen is the lone survivor of her old hive, and now, she must become the foundress of a new one. Kenny Coogan details a year in the life of a wasp queen.

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Although wasps and their relatives have a mean reputation, they serve an important niche in today’s agriculture. Follow the lifecycle of a wasp’s dynasty, as Kenny Coogan explores why we should welcome wasps to our gardens.

Wasps are vital to ecosystems. Sitting at the top of the local invertebrate food chain, wasps keep spiders, mites, centipedes and other insects in check. Wasps consume crop-eating insects, making them particularly helpful for farms and gardens. A few years ago, California invested $1.5 million in parasitic wasps, to help with an insect damaging citrus.

Wasps also pollinate fruits and vegetables and help winemakers by biting into their grapes and jump-starting fermentation. Certain types of fig trees are reliant on wasps. The wasp provides the pollen that the fruit needs to ripen, and the fig provides a home for the wasp offspring.

Scientists are now learning about three valuable peptides found in wasp venom. The hope is that it can be used for therapeutic and biotechnological use. A Brazilian social wasp’s venom (Polybia paulista) has been shown to inhibit multiple forms of cancerous cells such as prostate cancer, bladder cancer and multidrug-resistant leukemic cells.

Next time you see wasp, think before you spray.

Kenny Coogan, the educator of this TED-Ed animation, has admired wasps from afar. Visit his website to learn about food, flowers and farms.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Kenny Coogan
  • Director Biljana Labović
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Animator Denis Chapon
  • Art Director Denis Chapon
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma

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