Review of ‘Wonderful Wasps’
Dr Sam Lloyd, Children’s Books Daily chief science and nature book reviewer, has done it again! Another fabulous review for us all. This time on the wonder of Wasps! Wasps can be polarising characters – the sting can put people off but after reading this book you will understand they are SO much more than their sting.
Thank you to Dr Sam, who not only provides amazing science and nature book reviews, but also gorgeous baked goods and fresh eggs. She’s the ultimate neighbour! I urge you to follow her on Facebook and Instagram and help your kids (and yourselves) connect with science and understand nature that little bit more. Dr Sam’s aim is to grow little minds into big thinkers – a worthy pursuit!
Reviewer: Dr Sam Lloyd and Leila Wetzig (age 6)
Title: Wonderful Wasps
Author: Katrina Germein
Illustrator: Suzanne Houghton
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing, 2022
by Katrina Germein
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What do you know about Wasps?
This beautiful book opens by asking us a very important question…”What do you know about wasps?”, before taking us on a rhyming journey through native Australian wasps. Before we read the book, six-year-old Leila and I wrote out a list of things we already knew about wasps. After reading the book, we wrote a second list of the interesting things we learnt, which was so much as wasps are so interesting! Beautiful, dangerous, resourceful, predatory and paralysing pollinators, the bush would not be the same without them.
Katrina’s engaging and insightful rhyming verse is complimented by Suzanna’s vivid and charming illustrations. The illustrations include stunning endpapers showing us 11 different wasps in beautiful detail and relative size to each other. The illustrations also feature wasps on the native plants they like to visit, (or parasitise), including eucalyptus, wattle and bottlebrush.
Included in this book is the classic story of the fig and fig wasp. It’s the perfect example of what is known plant-pollinator mutualism, a type of symbiotic relationship where each party benefits, but in this case it can also be referred to as “obligate-mutualism” since one cannot survive without the other. The fig relies on the wasps for pollination and the fig wasp needs the fig fruit as a nursery for their larvae.
This book has certainly made me pay more attention to the wasps around our house and garden. We often have mud-dauber wasps building their mud clay cells and nests in between the spaces in the bricks on our deck, or sometimes inside the house. They fill the cell with a paralysed spider or caterpillar for their larvae to feed on. We also get a few different teeny tiny wasps around the garden. Some of them might be cuckoo wasps, but next time I see one I will pay closer attention and try to identify it.
Thank goodness for wasps, or many of our native plants would not be pollinated. We often go straight to bees when we think of pollination, but with over 12,000 native species, it’s fair to say this important group of insects plays an invaluable role in the pollination and conservation of our flowering plants.
Knowledge level up
Before we read the book: “What do you know about wasps?”
- They have stingers (Laila).
- They are colourful like butterflies (Laila).
- They like to feed on nectar (Laila).
- They are important pollinators (Sam).
- They are insects and are related to bees and ants (Sam).
After we read the book: “What did we learn?”
- They can be sparkly, shimmer and can have “rainbow-glass wings”.
- That some lizards, dragonflies and birds (e.g. rainbow bee-eaters) eat wasps.
- The orange spider wasp lays its egg on a paralysed spider, so its babies have some lunch when they hatch (fascinating but kind of gross).
- Australia has over 12,000 different native wasp species.
- Figs need fig wasps to pollinate their flowers and fig-wasps need fig fruit for their larvae to have somewhere safe to grow and develop.
Laila’s favourite wasp: Cuckoo wasp because “it shimmers and there is lots of shades of colours”.
Sam’s favourite wasp: Orange spider wasp because they can paralyse a spider larger than themselves and use the spider to ensure their larvae have a food source and grow safely.
Leila and Sam review Wonderful Wasps. Thanks Leila!
For more information on wasps, see the following links:
- The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney have a terrific page of the mutualistic relationship between the fig and the fig wasp called “Exploring Fig Wasps” in the “Primary School Resources” section, complete with videos, illustrations and age-appropriate text: https://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/learn/living-learning/primary-school-resources/garden-safari-invertebrates/exploring-fig-wasps.
- The Conversation of course has many articles on wasps, including: “Wasps: why I love them, and why you should to”: https://theconversation.com/wasps-why-i-love-them-and-why-you-should-too-155982 and “In defence of wasps: why squashing them comes with a sting in the tale”: https://theconversation.com/in-defence-of-wasps-why-squashing-them-comes-with-a-sting-in-the-tale-60729 both articles by Seirian Sumner, Professor of Behavioural Ecology, University College London.
- The Australian Museum also has many pages dedicated to wasps on their website, including the beautiful cuckoo wasp: https://australian.museum/learn/animals/insects/cuckoo-wasps/.
Dr Samantha Lloyd
Dr Samantha Lloyd is an ecologist and environmental manager with a passion for the Australian bush, children’s literature, dance, music and baking. Sam firmly believes in the value of engaging environmental and science-based children’s literature to nurture children’s insatiable curiosity and their need to understand why things are the way they are. Sam is keenly focused on growing little minds into big thinkers.
Sam graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Science (Biology) and a PhD (pollination ecology) in 2006 and has worked as an environmental manager and an entomologist. Sam’s ability to interpret and critically evaluate science-based publications for children has led her to be the chief children’s science reviewer for award winning website Children’s Books Daily and for the Ecological Society of Australia.
Sam’s favourite authors and illustrators include Arthur Rackham, Roald Dahl, May Gibbs, C.S Lewis, Brian Froud and Mem Fox. Sam lives in beautiful Brisbane with her husband, two young children, one dog and five chooks.
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