Wasps for farmers

*The studio that led this project is now called Then Try This - you can find more up to date information on this wasp project on their new website*

We’ve been asked to help out with a project looking at the feasibility of encouraging farmers to view wasps as natural biocontrol agents for major crop pests, led by Dr. Seirian Sumner (who we last worked with on the #wasplove game) and Dr. Alessandro Cini at UCL.

Two fundamental parts of this are (i) finding out how much people know about wasps, particularly whether they know that wasps are pollinators and predate crop pests, and (ii) getting some idea of how willing people would be to encourage wasps on their farms.

If farmers are amenable to encouraging wasp populations, and view them as necessary for crop success, then this could reduce our over-reliance on chemical pest controls which are bad for human health and biodiversity, and are leading to resistant pest populations.

The project involves communities of biologists, agronomists and social scientists from the UK, South America and Africa, with the work focused in Zambia, Nigeria and Brazil. Originally the work would have been done in person using interviews, but since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, it needs to be moved online, which is where we come in.

We’ll be designing and building a bespoke online survey to gather information on knowledge and attitudes towards wasps, including animations to demonstrate pollination and predation without the need for language. The variable cultural factors, different crop/wasp/pest species involved, multiple languages, and accessibility issues (internet speeds, device limitations) make this an interesting commission. We’ve been thinking for some time about whether we should build our own surveying system, since having difficulties with off-the-shelf systems for the Sonic Kayaks project, so this gives us an opportunity to make some progress on that.