Wasps are insects that belong to the order Hymenoptera.
There are over 120,000 species of wasps.
Wasps live all around the world and are found in nearly every country.
The largest social wasp is the Asian giant hornet [photo below], at up to 5 centimeters (2.0 in) in length; among the largest solitary wasps is a group of species known as tarantula hawks also up to 5 cm (2.0 in) long, along with the giant scoliid of Indonesia which have a wingspan of 11.5 cm (4.5 in).
The smallest wasps are solitary chalcid wasps in the family Mymaridae, including the world’s smallest known insect, with a body length of only 0.139 mm (0.0055 in), and the smallest known flying insect, only 0.15 mm (0.0059 in) long.
Wasps have biting mouthparts and antennae with 12 or 13 segments. They are normally winged. In stinging species, only the females are provided with a formidable sting, which involves use of a modified ovipositor (egg-laying structure) for piercing and venom-producing glands.
They come in every color imaginable, from yellow to black, metallic blue and green and bright red and orange.
Some wasp species are similar to bees. They are distinguishable from bees by their pointed lower
abdomens and narrow “waist,” a petiole, that separates the abdomen from the thorax. They also have little to no hair on their bodies (as opposed to bees) and don’t play much of a role in the pollination of plants. Their legs are shiny, slender, and shaped like cylinders.
The various species of wasps fall into one of two main categories: solitary wasps and social wasps. Adult solitary wasps live and operate alone, and most do not construct colonies. All adult solitary wasps are fertile. By contrast, social wasps exist in colonies numbering up to several thousand individuals. In social wasp colonies there are three castes: the egg-laying queens (one or more per colony), the workers, or sexually undeveloped females, and the drones, or males.
Social wasps account for only about a thousand species and include commonly known colony-builders, like yellow jackets and hornets.
All wasps that are not parasitic build nests. The vast majority of solitary wasps make their nest in the ground. Social wasps create their familiar papery nests from wood fibers scraped with their hard mandibles and chewed into a pulp.
By far the greater number of wasps (over 100,000 species) are a special type of parasite. They are parasitoids which lay their eggs in or on the caterpillars of other insect species. Unlike true parasites, the wasp larvae eventually kill their hosts.
All wasps go through complete metamorphosis. From the egg a larva hatches out. It looks a lot like a short fat white worm, but has a distinct head, and may have six small jointed legs. The larva grows
and molts (sheds its whole skin) several times before transforming into a pupa. This resting stage has
some of the body parts of an adult, but it can’t move or feed. Inside, it is transforming into an
adult. Eventually an adult emerges from its pupal skin.
Most wasps live less than one year, some workers for just a few months. Queens several live for several years.
A wasps’ diet varies amongst species, generally speaking a wasps larvae will almost always get its first meal from within a host insect. Adult solitary wasps mainly feed on nectar, but the majority of their time is taken up by foraging for food for their carnivorous young, mostly insects or spiders. Some social wasps are omnivores, eating both plants and other animals. They often eat fruit, nectar and carrion such as dead insects.
Social wasps use chemicals to identify nest-mates and send warnings and other information. Parasitic
wasps sometimes leave scent marks on the host insects to tell any other parasitic wasps that they’ve
already laid eggs there.
Unlike bees, female wasps have the ability to sting a target multiple times because their stinger does not fall off after use.
Social wasps use their stingers only for defense, stinging solitary wasps rely on their venom to hunt.
While wasp stings deter many potential predators, bee-eaters specialise in eating stinging insects, making aerial sallies from a perch to catch them, and removing the venom from the stinger by repeatedly brushing the prey firmly against a hard object, such as a twig.
Almost every insect pest species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it. This makes wasps critically important in the natural control of pest numbers. Parasitic wasps are increasingly used in agricultural pest control as they themselves do little or no damage to crops. Farmers buy these parasitic wasps for insect control in their fields.
While the vast majority of wasps play no role in pollination, a few species can effectively transport pollen and pollinate several plant species. For example fig wasps are the only pollinators of nearly 1000 species of figs.
Polistes fuscatus recognize individuals by their unique facial patterns. This is the first time that scientists have discovered this humanlike ability in an insect.
A fashion for wasp waisted female silhouettes with sharply cinched waistlines emphasizing the wearer’s hips and bust arose repeatedly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Vespa scooters are named after wasps — vespa means “wasp” in Italian.
The name “Wasp” has been used for many warships and other military equipment.