Bees, Wasps, and the Need for a Community Indicator

By: Jack Johnson, Destinations International

Recently I wrote that to be understood in the community, it is critical to identify a clear and powerful community-facing measurement(s) to highlight how a destination organization is filling the community need for destination promotion. It would underscore how the organization is contributing to community wellbeing. While these measurements, known as “community indicators,” are different from most current industry measurements that we use, they are critical to being seen as a community shared value.  

A couple of weeks ago I further clarified what the community indicator is and is not. The team working on the community indicator project is not trying to identify new industry measurements or metrics. They are more plentiful than hot days in a Texas summer. Instead, they are trying to identify one or more “community indicators” that are understood and accepted by the community. They need to be reliable and valid. But most of all, they need to answer three questions: 1) What does a destination organization do? 2)How well did the destination organization do it? and, 3) Are the residents of the community better off? These are not “industry measurements”; these are public and political measurements. 

Which brings us to bees and wasps. 

People tend to view bees, even though they can sting, as something that is beneficial and in the larger scheme of things – good. Bees pollinate our plants so they can produce flowers and fruit. They make honey which is delightfully sweet. Wasps on the other hand are viewed, because they can sting, as annoyances and in the larger scheme of things – bad. Why? I would argue that when it comes to wasps, people do not know 1) What does a wasp do (besides sting)? 2) How well do the wasps do this? and, 3) How is the community better off because of this? In other words, people do not understand the value and effectiveness of wasps. 

The same thing we need for destination organizations. Or in other words, many destination organizations, despite feeling they should be appreciated like the bee, are viewed much more like a wasp.  

We should appreciate the wasp because they carry out a lot of important jobs in nature, which help us to live healthy and happy lives. Perhaps the most important job provided by wasps is pest control. Wasps are predators, which means they hunt live prey (like flies, caterpillars, spiders, and even cockroaches) as a source of protein. The wasps that you see out and about are the hunting adults.  

As a side note, adult wasps do not eat the prey; they feed it to the developing offspring. It is the baby wasps that are the meat-eaters, not the adults. In return, the baby wasps give the adults a sugary reward. There is a great analogy in that fact somewhere! 

Getting back to our appreciation of the wasp, it is important to acknowledge just how much the wasps help to keep other arthropod populations under control. Without wasps, we would be flooded with flies, caterpillars, spiders, cockroaches, and other arthropods. Wasps provide us with free, eco-friendly natural pest-control. That is awesome! But wait - there is more! Wasps also pollinate.  

Remember, the adult wasps do not eat the prey; instead, they gather and eat sugar from their kids and after the kids have grown, from the nectar of flowers (or from your sugary drinks). They pollinate the flowers they visit, just like bees do. But wasps are not as fussy as the more respected bee - they will visit any flower. This means wasps might not be as efficient at pollination as bees are, but they are useful back-up pollinators in habitats, such as cities and farmland, where there are not enough of the right kinds of flowers for bees to thrive. And as more of the natural world becomes disturbed and urbanized by humans, wasps may become more important pollinators in the future. 

Now, back to the need for a community indicator. We have bee indicators. Success in beekeeping is measured by the amount of honey harvested during the season. Farmers using bees for pollination pay attention to the number of flowers and/or fruit that is being produced. And both pay attention to the number of bees as well as the number of bee species (there are over 200 in North America alone). Bees can be hard to count but there are numerous groups out there doing just that. My favorite is the Oregon Bee Project that, among other activities, counts bees. There is quite a lot of activity around bees going on out there and it has led to increased awareness and respect for the humble bee. 

As for the wasp? Not so much. They are limited to serving as a helpful analogy on why we need a community indicator as part of an awareness campaign for our industry sector. 

About the Author

Jack JohnsonChief Advocacy OfficerDestinations International

About the Author

Jack manages the overall public policy operations at Destinations International including member advocacy education and training, development of destination tools and best practices, coalition work with peer organizations, industry research and related public affairs activities. Jack is a 2021 Smart Meetings Magazine’s Catalyst Award winner and one of Successful Meetings’ 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry in 2018.

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