The Wasp Does More Than Sting! 黄蜂不仅仅只会蛰人!

Author/作者: Isabell

Chinese Translator/中文母语翻译: 杜小雯 (Xiao)

Chinese (中文原声)杜小雯 (Xiao)

English (英文原声) Isabell (伊莎)

Ode to the wasp!

One of the most beautiful things of wine is the fact that basically it’s complex; it’s made of several parts and it communicates to several parts of your brain.” (Duccio Cavalieri). 


Roman wine and cup

Many people think that wasps in the vineyard are a big problem worthy of pest control, but how wrong they are!  Wasps are in fact very useful, even if they send people running in fear of being stung. Somehow the Romans knew that wasps played some kind of important role in the winemaking process, and they planted certain plants and flowers to attract them – it seems the Romans were onto something.


Wasp eating a grape

According to a relatively recent study, wasps are responsible for kick-starting the fermentation process by depositing yeast into vineyard grapes. Even though yeast is added to grape juice later on in the winemaking process, the wasps start up the process once they bite into the fruit. This yeast then goes to work, eventually adding to the flavors of the finished product. Just as importantly, these insects also deposit certain enzymes along with the yeast which also adds to the flavors of the wine. 


Saccharomyces cerevisiae under the microscope

The yeast that is responsible for starting the fermentation process in products like wine, beer and bread is called Saccharomyces cerevisiae — commonly known as brewer’s yeast. The wasps responsible for spreading this yeast in Europe are mainly the European hornets and paper wasps. Duccio Cavalieri, professor of microbiology at the University of Florence, Italy led a study on the role that wasps play in the vineyard. By using DNA sequencing techniques to analyze the genes of the yeast, researchers were then able to trace them to the wasps. They also concluded that hornets could pass the yeast to their offspring.

负责在葡萄酒、啤酒和面包等产品中启动发酵过程的酵母称为酿酒酵母Saccharomyces cerevisiae——通常称为啤酒酵母。负责在欧洲传播这种酵母的黄蜂主要是欧洲黄蜂和造纸胡蜂。意大利佛罗伦萨大学微生物学教授杜奇奥·卡瓦列里开展了一项关于黄蜂在葡萄园中所起作用的研究。通过使用脱氧核糖核酸测序技术来分析酵母的基因,研究人员之后能够追踪到这些酵母来自于黄蜂。他们还得出结论:大黄蜂可以将酵母传给后代。

Duccio Cavalieri, professor of microbiology at the University of Florence, Italy

Interestingly, wasps are not the only carriers of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, there are birds and insects that also carry it, but there is a distinct difference in that, while birds and insects may carry the special fermentation agent, they are only able to harbor it for a short time before it disappears. With wasps however, the Saccharomyces cerevisiae stays in their bellies throughout the winter during their hibernation cycle and it is passed onto their young, this is then available to be spread when they go in search of food. 

有趣的是,黄蜂不是酿酒酵母(Saccharomyces cerevisiae)的唯一载体,也有鸟类和昆虫携带它,但有一个明显的区别,虽然鸟类和昆虫可能携带特殊的发酵剂,但它们只能在酵母消失前短暂地保存它。然而,对于黄蜂来说,酿酒酵母在冬眠期间整个冬天都呆在它们的肚子里,并传递给它们的幼蜂,然后当它们去寻找食物时,这些酵母就可以传播开来。

Wasp nest in a tree

So, the next time that you are on a picnic and start swatting at those grumpy bugs, remember how important their role is in the ecosystem – and how delicious the wine in front of you tastes – in part because of them!


Published by 小Vino

Ciao! 👋 Xiao.Vino is here! 😊 A 🇨🇳 Chinese 🍷Wine Professional based in Verona, Italy 🇮🇹 Result-driven💰 Facebook & YouTube Advertising “geek” @ Vinitaly International 🙇🏻‍♀️ Currently a WSET diploma & VIA (Vinitaly International Academy) candidate, lifelong wine education continues; 微信公众号:小Vino 👩‍🎓 Proud graduate of Vinifera European Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology (P9: 2015-17) & Asia’s first College of Enology (2011-15) #小雯的葡萄酒之旅 Life Motto: Live 1 & wine life to the fullest! 🥂 “每一个不曾举杯、不曾起舞的日子,都是对生命的辜负”。

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