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I tend to my garden once a day and about half the time see one or more wasps crawling on one of my lettuce heads. I've always been told that wasps are predators so I presume they aren't there to eat the lettuce. Why are they frequenting my garden?

Some background on my garden's climate and location... I live in coastal Southern California in a residential area. The garden is in my backyard and receives direct sunlight most of the day. I am growing lettuce, tomatoes, corn, beans, and squash spread across three planters that are build within a few feet of one another. I've only seen wasps on the lettuce and in the planter with lettuce and tomatoes.

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Can you tell us more about your garden and the surrounding area? You're providing shelter and food, somehow...and what climate is this? –  Alex Feinman Jun 4 '12 at 19:19
    
@Alex, I added some background. Please let me know if you need to know more information. Thanks –  Scott Mitchell Jun 4 '12 at 19:56
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Is there any pest damage on the lettuces? Like from caterpillars? –  Niall C. Jun 4 '12 at 20:00
    
@NiallC., there is pest damage, yes. I'm not sure about caterpillars, haven't unearthed any of those, but I did see a couple of snails near one particularly attacked head of lettuce. –  Scott Mitchell Jun 4 '12 at 23:28
    
@ScottMitchell: I mentioned caterpillars because they're a common prey of wasps, and lettuces are a good source of both food and shelter. I'm not so sure about wasps preying on snails or slugs. –  Niall C. Jun 5 '12 at 2:38
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2 Answers

They are probably looking for caterpillars for their eggs/larvae.

The Braconid Wasp lays it's eggs on the Tomato Horn Worm

Since you are growing Tomatoes that is probably what is happening. In a vegetable garden wasps do more good than harm. So I would suggest you just ignore them.

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There are a number of different types of wasp, even amongst the yellow-and-black striped kind. And a lot of people also cannot tell the difference between wasps, bees and some of the flies that mimic wasps and bees. And obviously the food and behaviour is different for different species.

However, assuming they are wasps, the black-and-yellow kinds all tend to have similar general behaviour. Insects, esp. caterpillars and beetle larvae, are collected to take back to the nest for the wasp larvae to eat. The adult wasps generally eat nectar and sweet fruits, and some also like our food and food waste.

The parasitic wasps, such as the Braconid mentioned, are usually black, orange or red, and are generally smaller than the black and yellow guys that people normally think of as wasps. These are the ones that lay eggs directly in other dead or alive insects, before or after taking them to there nest. But these are not the ones you have.

As mentioned by a commenter, a common insect to find on lettuce is caterpillars, which they might be collecting for food. A number of the black-and-yellow wasps also collect fibre for the nests, which is a possibility.

Here are two websites with basic wasp-identification information if you are interested or would like to check the ID of your wasps.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characteristics_of_common_wasps_and_bees http://www.adkinsbeeremoval.com/wasp-identification.php

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