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How Wasps Help Create Your Beer

 

You might want to be nicer to this common garden pest, as your beer may depend on it.

Stop!! Before you smack or trap that pesky wasp looking to snack on your picnic lunch, you need to read this. Wasps should be beer lovers’ friends. They might mess up your backyard BBQ, scare your kids and offer the occasional sting, but maybe, just maybe, they deserve a little more love than they have been receiving thus far.

Why am I saying this? Well, it just so happens that a recent Discover Magazine Blog entry reports some new research that suggests that wasps are key actors in ensuring that yeast, including our friend Saccromyces Cerevisiae (the species that produces our favourite elixir) survive the winter.

I am not capable (nor do I wish to) offer the scientific details of how wasps assist brewing yeast, but it boils down to this. Some species of wasps feed on fruit blossoms, which will naturally cause them to ingest some yeast. The queen wasp then hibernates over the winter, and as it works out their guts are a hospitable environment for yeast, and prevent it from getting killed off by sub-zero temperatures. In the spring, she starts up a new colony and collectively they re-release the yeast into the environment, where it can go after fruit and other sugars and generally re-propagate.

Is this the main reason why we continue to see yeast on the planet? Likely not, as yeast is remarkably hardy and versatile. But it is an interesting little tidbit and is EXACTLY the kind of story I like to talk about in beer education sessions – quirky, scientifically/factually accurate and something people won’t know.

Now go hug your local neighbourhood wasp – or at least say thank you.

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