Wasp
Overview
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

 of the order Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera is one of the largest orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. There are over 130,000 recognized species, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the heavy wings of the insects, and is derived from the Ancient Greek ὑμήν : membrane and...

 and suborder Apocrita
Apocrita
Apocrita is a suborder of insects in the order Hymenoptera.Apocrita includes wasps, bees and ants, and consists of many families. It includes the most advanced hymenopterans and is distinguished from Symphyta by the narrow "waist" formed between the first two segments of the actual abdomen; the...

 that is neither a bee
Bee
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila...

 nor an ant
Ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes
Parasitism
Parasitism is a type of symbiotic relationship between organisms of different species where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host. Traditionally parasite referred to organisms with lifestages that needed more than one host . These are now called macroparasites...

 it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their numbers, or natural biocontrol
BioControl
BioControl is a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by Springer Science+Business Media covering all aspects of basic and applied research in biological control of invertebrate, vertebrate, and weed pests, and plant diseases. The journal was established in 1956 as Entomophaga and published by...

. Parasitic wasp
Parasitic wasp
The term parasitoid wasp refers to a large evolutionary grade of hymenopteran superfamilies, mainly in the Apocrita. They are primarily parasitoids of other animals, mostly other arthropods...

s are increasingly used in agricultural pest control
Pest control
Pest control refers to the regulation or management of a species defined as a pest, usually because it is perceived to be detrimental to a person's health, the ecology or the economy.-History:...

 as they prey mostly on pest insects and have little impact on crops.

The majority of wasp species (well over 100,000 species) are "parasitic" (technically known as parasitoid
Parasitoid
A parasitoid is an organism that spends a significant portion of its life history attached to or within a single host organism in a relationship that is in essence parasitic; unlike a true parasite, however, it ultimately sterilises or kills, and sometimes consumes, the host...

s), and the ovipositor
Ovipositor
The ovipositor is an organ used by some animals for oviposition, i.e., the laying of eggs. It consists of a maximum of three pairs of appendages formed to transmit the egg, to prepare a place for it, and to place it properly...

 is used simply to lay eggs, often directly into the body of the host.
Encyclopedia
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

 of the order Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera is one of the largest orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. There are over 130,000 recognized species, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the heavy wings of the insects, and is derived from the Ancient Greek ὑμήν : membrane and...

 and suborder Apocrita
Apocrita
Apocrita is a suborder of insects in the order Hymenoptera.Apocrita includes wasps, bees and ants, and consists of many families. It includes the most advanced hymenopterans and is distinguished from Symphyta by the narrow "waist" formed between the first two segments of the actual abdomen; the...

 that is neither a bee
Bee
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila...

 nor an ant
Ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes
Parasitism
Parasitism is a type of symbiotic relationship between organisms of different species where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host. Traditionally parasite referred to organisms with lifestages that needed more than one host . These are now called macroparasites...

 it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their numbers, or natural biocontrol
BioControl
BioControl is a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by Springer Science+Business Media covering all aspects of basic and applied research in biological control of invertebrate, vertebrate, and weed pests, and plant diseases. The journal was established in 1956 as Entomophaga and published by...

. Parasitic wasp
Parasitic wasp
The term parasitoid wasp refers to a large evolutionary grade of hymenopteran superfamilies, mainly in the Apocrita. They are primarily parasitoids of other animals, mostly other arthropods...

s are increasingly used in agricultural pest control
Pest control
Pest control refers to the regulation or management of a species defined as a pest, usually because it is perceived to be detrimental to a person's health, the ecology or the economy.-History:...

 as they prey mostly on pest insects and have little impact on crops.

Taxonomy

The majority of wasp species (well over 100,000 species) are "parasitic" (technically known as parasitoid
Parasitoid
A parasitoid is an organism that spends a significant portion of its life history attached to or within a single host organism in a relationship that is in essence parasitic; unlike a true parasite, however, it ultimately sterilises or kills, and sometimes consumes, the host...

s), and the ovipositor
Ovipositor
The ovipositor is an organ used by some animals for oviposition, i.e., the laying of eggs. It consists of a maximum of three pairs of appendages formed to transmit the egg, to prepare a place for it, and to place it properly...

 is used simply to lay eggs, often directly into the body of the host. The most familiar wasps belong to Aculeata
Aculeata
The name Aculeata is used to refer to a monophyletic lineage of Hymenoptera. The word "Aculeata" is a reference to the defining feature of the group, which is the modification of the ovipositor into a stinger . In other words, the structure that was originally used to lay eggs is modified instead...

, a division of Apocrita, whose ovipositors are adapted into a venom
Venom
Venom is the general term referring to any variety of toxins used by certain types of animals that inject it into their victims by the means of a bite or a sting...

ous sting, though a great many aculeate species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 do not sting. Aculeata also contains ants and bees, and many wasps are commonly mistaken for bees, and vice-versa. In a similar respect, insects called "velvet ants" (the family Mutillidae
Mutillidae
Mutillidae are a family of more than 3,000 species of wasp whose wingless females resemble ants. Their common name velvet ant refers to their dense pile of hair which most often is bright scarlet or orange but may also be black, white, silver, or gold. Their bright colours serve as aposematic signals...

) are technically wasps.

The suborder Symphyta, known commonly as sawflies
Sawfly
Sawfly is the common name for insects belonging to suborder Symphyta of the order Hymenoptera. Sawflies are distinguishable from most other Hymenoptera by the broad connection between the abdomen and the thorax, and by their caterpillar-like larvae...

, differ from members of Apocrita by lacking a sting, and having a broader connection between the mesosoma
Mesosoma
The mesosoma is the middle part of the body, or tagma, of arthropods whose body is composed of three parts, the other two being the prosoma and the metasoma. It bears the legs, and, in the case of winged insects, the wings....

 and metasoma
Metasoma
The metasoma is the posterior part of the body, or tagma, of arthropods whose body is composed of three parts, the other two being the prosoma and the mesosoma. In insects, it contains most of the digestive tract, respiratory system, and circulatory system, and the apical segments are typically...

. In addition to this, Symphyta larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e are mostly herbivorous
Herbivore
Herbivores are organisms that are anatomically and physiologically adapted to eat plant-based foods. Herbivory is a form of consumption in which an organism principally eats autotrophs such as plants, algae and photosynthesizing bacteria. More generally, organisms that feed on autotrophs in...

 and "caterpillar
Caterpillar
Caterpillars are the larval form of members of the order Lepidoptera . They are mostly herbivorous in food habit, although some species are insectivorous. Caterpillars are voracious feeders and many of them are considered to be pests in agriculture...

like", whereas those of Apocrita are largely predatory
Predation
In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey . Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption...

 or parasitoids.

A much narrower and simpler but popular definition of the term wasp is any member of the aculeate family Vespid
Vespid
The Vespidae are a large , diverse, cosmopolitan family of wasps, including nearly all the known eusocial wasps and many solitary wasps. Each social wasp colony includes a queen and a number of female workers with varying degrees of sterility relative to the queen. In temperate social species,...

ae, which includes (among others) the genera known in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 as yellowjacket
Yellowjacket
Yellowjacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as "wasps" in other English-speaking countries...

s (Vespula and Dolichovespula) and hornet
Hornet
Hornets are the largest eusocial wasps; some species can reach up to in length. The true hornets make up the genus Vespa and are distinguished from other vespines by the width of the vertex , which is proportionally larger in Vespa and by the anteriorly rounded gasters .- Life cycle :In...

s (Vespa); in many countries outside of the Western Hemisphere
Western Hemisphere
The Western Hemisphere or western hemisphere is mainly used as a geographical term for the half of the Earth that lies west of the Prime Meridian and east of the Antimeridian , the other half being called the Eastern Hemisphere.In this sense, the western hemisphere consists of the western portions...

, the vernacular usage of wasp is even further restricted to apply strictly to yellowjacket
Yellowjacket
Yellowjacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as "wasps" in other English-speaking countries...

s (e.g., the "common wasp
Common wasp
The common wasp, Vespula vulgaris, known in the US as the yellowjacket, is found in much of the Northern Hemisphere and has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand. It is a eusocial vespid which builds its grey paper nest in or on a structure capable of supporting it...

").

Categorization

The various species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 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 nests (below); all adult solitary wasps are fertile. By contrast, social wasps exist in colonies numbering up to several thousand individuals and build nests—but in some cases not all of the colony can reproduce. In some species, just the wasp queen and male wasps can mate, whilst the majority of the colony is made up of sterile female workers.

Characteristics


Image:Wasp morphology.png|thumb|250px|The basic morphology of a female Yellowjacket wasp|right
poly 1011 964 642 889 891 517 1192 1 1603 28 1595 28 1231 821 Wings
Insect flight
Insects are the only group of invertebrates known to have evolved flight. Insects possess some remarkable flight characteristics and abilities, still far superior to attempts by humans to replicate their capabilities. Even our understanding of the aerodynamics of flexible, flapping wings and how...


rect 80 1066 347 1582 Antenna
Antenna (biology)
Antennae in biology have historically been paired appendages used for sensing in arthropods. More recently, the term has also been applied to cilium structures present in most cell types of eukaryotes....


rect 524 946 963 1352 Thorax
Thorax
The thorax is a division of an animal's body that lies between the head and the abdomen.-In tetrapods:...


poly 365 1599 363 1471 554 1361 966 1373 1340 1438 1757 1618 1742 1809 1340 1806 1015 1597 Leg
Arthropod leg
The arthropod leg is a form of jointed appendage of arthropods, usually used for walking. Many of the terms used for arthropod leg segments are of Latin origin, and may be confused with terms for bones: coxa , trochanter , femur, tibia, tarsus, ischium, metatarsus, carpus, dactylus ,...

s
rect 353 876 508 1358 Head
Head
In anatomy, the head of an animal is the rostral part that usually comprises the brain, eyes, ears, nose and mouth . Some very simple animals may not have a head, but many bilaterally symmetric forms do....


poly 1511 1478 1660 1319 1784 1578 Stinger
Stinger
-Biology:* Stinger, an organ or body part found in various animals that usually delivers some kind of venom.* Stinger , a minor neurological injury suffered by athletes.-Sports and entertainment:...


poly 980 1348 991 1005 1207 892 1643 1286 1494 1474 1214 1384 Abdomen
Abdomen
In vertebrates such as mammals the abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the thorax and pelvis. The region enclosed by the abdomen is termed the abdominal cavity...


rect 0 0 1896 1815 Female Yellowjacket
Yellowjacket
Yellowjacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as "wasps" in other English-speaking countries...


desc bottom-left

The following characteristics are present in most wasps:
  • Two pairs of wings
    Insect wing
    Insects are the only group of invertebrates known to have evolved flight. Insects possess some remarkable flight characteristics and abilities, still far superior to attempts by humans to replicate their capabilities. Even our understanding of the aerodynamics of flexible, flapping wings and how...

     (except wingless or brachypterous forms in all female Mutillidae
    Mutillidae
    Mutillidae are a family of more than 3,000 species of wasp whose wingless females resemble ants. Their common name velvet ant refers to their dense pile of hair which most often is bright scarlet or orange but may also be black, white, silver, or gold. Their bright colours serve as aposematic signals...

    , Bradynobaenidae
    Bradynobaenidae
    Bradynobaenidae is a family of wasps similar to the Mutillidae. These species are often found in arid regions.- Genera found in Europe :* Apterogyna Latreille, 1809* Gynecaptera Skorikov, 1935- Other genera :* Bradynobaenus Spinola, 1851...

    , many male Agaonidae, many female Ichneumonidae
    Ichneumonidae
    Ichneumonidae is a family within the insect order Hymenoptera. Insects in this family are commonly called ichneumon wasps. Less exact terms are ichneumon flies , or scorpion wasps due to the extreme lengthening and curving of the abdomen...

    , Braconidae
    Braconidae
    Braconidae is a family of parasitoid wasps and one of the richest families of insects. Between 50,000 and 150,000 species exist worldwide. The species are grouped into about 45 subfamilies and 1,000 genera, some important ones being: Ademon, Aphanta, Asobara, Bracon hebetor, Cenocoelius, Chaenusa,...

    , Tiphiidae
    Tiphiidae
    Tiphiidae is a family of large solitary wasps whose larvae are almost universally parasitoids of various beetle larvae, especially those in the superfamily Scarabaeoidea....

    , Scelionidae
    Scelionidae
    The Hymenopteran family Scelionidae is a very large cosmopolitan group of exclusively parasitoid wasps, mostly small , often black, often highly sculptured, with elbowed antennae that have an 9- or 10-segmented flagellum...

    , Rhopalosomatidae
    Rhopalosomatidae
    Rhopalosomatidae is a family of Hymenoptera. It contains about 68 extant species in four genera that are found worldwide. Three fossil genera are known....

    , Eupelmidae
    Eupelmidae
    Eupelmidae is a family of parasitic wasps in the superfamily Chalcidoidea. The group is apparently polyphyletic, though the different subfamilies may each be monophyletic, and may be elevated to family status in the near future. As presently defined, there are over 905 described species in 45 genera...

    , and various other families).
  • An ovipositor
    Ovipositor
    The ovipositor is an organ used by some animals for oviposition, i.e., the laying of eggs. It consists of a maximum of three pairs of appendages formed to transmit the egg, to prepare a place for it, and to place it properly...

    , or stinger
    Stinger (organ)
    A sting, sometimes called a stinger in the US, is a sharp organ or body part found in various animals that delivers some kind of venom . A true sting differs from other piercing structures in that it pierces by its own action and injects venom, as opposed to teeth, which pierce by the force of...

     (which is only present in females because it derives from the ovipositor, a female sex organ).
  • Few or no thickened hair
    Hair
    Hair is a filamentous biomaterial, that grows from follicles found in the dermis. Found exclusively in mammals, hair is one of the defining characteristics of the mammalian class....

    s (in contrast to bees); except Mutillidae, Bradynobaenidae, Scoliidae
    Scoliidae
    Scoliidae, the scoliid wasps, is a small family represented by 6 genera and about 20 species in North America, but they occur worldwide, with a total of around 300 species. They tend to be black, often marked with yellow or orange, and their wing tips are distinctively corrugated...

    .
  • Nearly all wasps are terrestrial; only a few specialized parasitic groups are aquatic.
  • Predator
    Predation
    In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey . Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption...

    s or parasitoid
    Parasitoid
    A parasitoid is an organism that spends a significant portion of its life history attached to or within a single host organism in a relationship that is in essence parasitic; unlike a true parasite, however, it ultimately sterilises or kills, and sometimes consumes, the host...

    s, mostly on other terrestrial insects; most species of Pompilidae (e.g. tarantula hawk
    Tarantula hawk
    A tarantula hawk is a spider wasp which hunts tarantulas as food for its larvae. Tarantula hawks belong to any of the many species in the genera Pepsis and Hemipepsis in the family Pompilidae ....

    s), specialize in using spider
    Spider
    Spiders are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all other groups of organisms...

    s as prey, and various parasitic wasp
    Parasitic wasp
    The term parasitoid wasp refers to a large evolutionary grade of hymenopteran superfamilies, mainly in the Apocrita. They are primarily parasitoids of other animals, mostly other arthropods...

    s use spiders or other arachnids as reproductive hosts.

Genetics

In wasps, as in other Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera is one of the largest orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. There are over 130,000 recognized species, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the heavy wings of the insects, and is derived from the Ancient Greek ὑμήν : membrane and...

, sex
Sex
In biology, sex is a process of combining and mixing genetic traits, often resulting in the specialization of organisms into a male or female variety . Sexual reproduction involves combining specialized cells to form offspring that inherit traits from both parents...

es are significantly genetically
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 different. Females have 2n number of chromosome
Chromosome
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.Chromosomes...

s and come about from fertilized eggs. Males, in contrast, have a haploid (n) number of chromosomes and develop from an unfertilized egg. Wasps store sperm inside their body and control its release for each individual egg as it is laid; if a female wishes to produce a male egg, she simply lays the egg without fertilizing it. Therefore, under most conditions in most species, wasps have complete voluntary control over the sex of their offspring.

Anatomy and sex

Anatomically, there is a great deal of variation between different types of wasp. Like all insects, wasps have a hard exoskeleton
Exoskeleton
An exoskeleton is the external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton of, for example, a human. In popular usage, some of the larger kinds of exoskeletons are known as "shells". Examples of exoskeleton animals include insects such as grasshoppers...

 covering their three main body parts. These parts are known as the head
Head
In anatomy, the head of an animal is the rostral part that usually comprises the brain, eyes, ears, nose and mouth . Some very simple animals may not have a head, but many bilaterally symmetric forms do....

, mesosoma
Mesosoma
The mesosoma is the middle part of the body, or tagma, of arthropods whose body is composed of three parts, the other two being the prosoma and the metasoma. It bears the legs, and, in the case of winged insects, the wings....

 and metasoma
Metasoma
The metasoma is the posterior part of the body, or tagma, of arthropods whose body is composed of three parts, the other two being the prosoma and the mesosoma. In insects, it contains most of the digestive tract, respiratory system, and circulatory system, and the apical segments are typically...

. Wasps also have a constricted region joining the first and second segments of the abdomen (the first segment is part of the mesosoma, the second is part of the metasoma) known as the petiole
Petiole (insect)
In entomology, the term petiole is most commonly used to refer to the constricted first metasomal segment of members of the Hymenopteran suborder Apocrita; it may be used to refer to other insects with similar body shapes, where the metasomal base is constricted...

. Like all insects, wasps have three sets of two legs. In addition to their compound eyes, wasps also have several simple eyes known as ocelli. These are typically arranged in a triangular formation just forward of an area of the head known as the vertex
Vertex (anatomy)
In arthropod and vertebrate anatomy, the vertex refers to the upper surface of the head.In humans, the vertex is formed by four bones of the skull: the frontal bone, the two parietal bones, and the occipital bone...

.

It is possible to distinguish between sexes of some wasp species based on the number of divisions on their antennae
Antenna (biology)
Antennae in biology have historically been paired appendages used for sensing in arthropods. More recently, the term has also been applied to cilium structures present in most cell types of eukaryotes....

. Male yellowjacket wasps, for example, have 13 divisions per antenna, while females have 12. Males can in some cases be differentiated from females by virtue of having an additional visible segment in the metasoma
Metasoma
The metasoma is the posterior part of the body, or tagma, of arthropods whose body is composed of three parts, the other two being the prosoma and the mesosoma. In insects, it contains most of the digestive tract, respiratory system, and circulatory system, and the apical segments are typically...

. The difference between sterile female worker wasps and queens also varies between species but generally the queen is noticeably larger than both males and other females.

Wasps can be differentiated from bees, which have a flattened hind basitarsus
Arthropod leg
The arthropod leg is a form of jointed appendage of arthropods, usually used for walking. Many of the terms used for arthropod leg segments are of Latin origin, and may be confused with terms for bones: coxa , trochanter , femur, tibia, tarsus, ischium, metatarsus, carpus, dactylus ,...

. Unlike bees, wasps generally lack plumose hairs.

Diet

Generally wasps are parasites or parasitoid
Parasitoid
A parasitoid is an organism that spends a significant portion of its life history attached to or within a single host organism in a relationship that is in essence parasitic; unlike a true parasite, however, it ultimately sterilises or kills, and sometimes consumes, the host...

s as larvae, and feed only on nectar as adults. Many wasps are predatory, using other insects (often paralyzed) as food for their larvae. A few social wasps are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of fallen fruit, nectar, and carrion. Some of these social wasps, such as yellowjackets, may scavenge for dead insects to provide for their young. In many social species the larvae provide sweet secretions that are fed to the adults.

In parasitic species, the first meals are almost always provided by the animal that the adult wasp used as a host for its young. Adult male wasps sometimes visit flowers to obtain nectar to feed on in much the same manner as honey bees. Occasionally, some species, such as yellowjacket
Yellowjacket
Yellowjacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as "wasps" in other English-speaking countries...

s and, especially, hornet
Hornet
Hornets are the largest eusocial wasps; some species can reach up to in length. The true hornets make up the genus Vespa and are distinguished from other vespines by the width of the vertex , which is proportionally larger in Vespa and by the anteriorly rounded gasters .- Life cycle :In...

s, invade honey bee
Honey bee
Honey bees are a subset of bees in the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax. Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis...

 nests and steal honey
Honey
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

 and/or brood.

Pollination

Wasps can effectively transport pollen and therefore contribute for the pollination
Pollination
Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred in plants, thereby enabling fertilisation and sexual reproduction. Pollen grains transport the male gametes to where the female gamete are contained within the carpel; in gymnosperms the pollen is directly applied to the ovule itself...

 of several plant species, being potential or even efficient pollinators.

Wasp parasitism

With most species, adult parasitic wasp
Parasitic wasp
The term parasitoid wasp refers to a large evolutionary grade of hymenopteran superfamilies, mainly in the Apocrita. They are primarily parasitoids of other animals, mostly other arthropods...

s themselves do not take any nutrients from their prey, and, much like bees, butterflies
Butterfly
A butterfly is a mainly day-flying insect of the order Lepidoptera, which includes the butterflies and moths. Like other holometabolous insects, the butterfly's life cycle consists of four parts: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Most species are diurnal. Butterflies have large, often brightly coloured...

, and moth
Moth
A moth is an insect closely related to the butterfly, both being of the order Lepidoptera. Moths form the majority of this order; there are thought to be 150,000 to 250,000 different species of moth , with thousands of species yet to be described...

s, those that do feed as adults typically derive all of their nutrition from nectar. Parasitic wasps are typically parasitoid
Parasitoid
A parasitoid is an organism that spends a significant portion of its life history attached to or within a single host organism in a relationship that is in essence parasitic; unlike a true parasite, however, it ultimately sterilises or kills, and sometimes consumes, the host...

s, and extremely diverse in habits, many laying their eggs in inert stages of their host (egg
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

 or pupa
Pupa
A pupa is the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation. The pupal stage is found only in holometabolous insects, those that undergo a complete metamorphosis, going through four life stages; embryo, larva, pupa and imago...

), or sometimes paralyzing their prey by injecting it with venom through their ovipositor
Ovipositor
The ovipositor is an organ used by some animals for oviposition, i.e., the laying of eggs. It consists of a maximum of three pairs of appendages formed to transmit the egg, to prepare a place for it, and to place it properly...

. They then insert one or more eggs into the host or deposit them upon the host externally. The host remains alive until the parasitoid larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e are mature, usually dying either when the parasitoid
Parasitoid
A parasitoid is an organism that spends a significant portion of its life history attached to or within a single host organism in a relationship that is in essence parasitic; unlike a true parasite, however, it ultimately sterilises or kills, and sometimes consumes, the host...

s pupate, or when they emerge as adults.

Nesting habits

The type of nest produced by wasps can depend on the species and location. Many social wasps produce nests that are constructed predominantly from paper pulp. The kind of timber used varies from one species to another and this is what can give many species a nest of distinctive colour. Social Wasps also use other types of nesting material that become mixed in with the nest and it is common to find nests located near to plastic pool or trampoline covers incorporating distinct bands of colour that reflect the inclusion of these materials that have simply been chewed up and mixed with wood fibres to give a unique look to the nest. Again each species of social wasp appears to favour its own specific range of nesting sites. D. media and D. sylvestris prefer to nest in trees and shrubs, others like V. germanica like to nest in cavities that include holes in the ground, spaces under homes, wall cavities or in lofts. By contrast solitary wasps are generally parasitic or predatory and only the latter build nests at all. Unlike honey bee
Honey bee
Honey bees are a subset of bees in the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax. Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis...

s, wasps have no wax
Beeswax
Beeswax is a natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey bees of the genus Apis. It is mainly esters of fatty acids and various long chain alcohols...

 producing glands. Many instead create a paper-like substance primarily from wood pulp. Wood fibers are gathered locally from weathered wood, softened by chewing and mixing with saliva. The pulp is then used to make combs with cells for brood rearing. More commonly, nests are simply burrows excavated in a substrate (usually the soil, but also plant stems), or, if constructed, they are constructed from mud.

Solitary wasps

The nesting habits of solitary wasps are more diverse than those of social wasps. Mud dauber
Mud dauber
Mud dauber is a name commonly applied to a number of wasps from either the family Sphecidae or Crabronidae that build their nests from mud...

s and pollen wasp
Pollen wasp
Pollen wasps are unusual wasps that are typically treated as a subfamily of Vespidae, but have in the past sometimes been recognized as a separate family, "Masaridae", which also included the subfamily Euparagiinae. It is a small subfamily, unique among wasps in feeding their larvae exclusively...

s construct mud cells in sheltered places typically on the side of walls. Potter wasp
Potter wasp
Potter wasps are a cosmopolitan wasp group presently treated as a subfamily of Vespidae, but sometimes recognized in the past as a separate family, Eumenidae.-Recognition:...

s similarly build vase-like nests from mud, often with multiple cells, attached to the twigs of trees or against walls. Most other predatory wasps burrow into soil or into plant stems, and a few do not build nests at all and prefer naturally occurring cavities, such as small holes in wood. A single egg is laid in each cell, which is sealed thereafter, so there is no interaction between the larvae and the adults, unlike in social wasps. In some species, male eggs are selectively placed on smaller prey, leading to males being generally smaller than females.

Social wasps

The nests of some social wasps, such as hornets, are first constructed by the queen and reach about the size of a walnut before sterile female workers take over construction. The queen initially starts the nest by making a single layer or canopy and working outwards until she reaches the edges of the cavity. Beneath the canopy she constructs a stalk to which she can attach several cells; these cells are where the first eggs will be laid. The queen then continues to work outwards to the edges of the cavity after which she adds another tier. This process is repeated, each time adding a new tier until eventually enough female workers have been born and matured to take over construction of the nest leaving the queen to focus on reproduction. For this reason, the size of a nest is generally a good indicator of approximately how many female workers there are in the colony and some hornets' nests eventually grow to the size of beach balls. Social wasp colonies often have populations of between three and ten thousand female workers at maturity, although a small proportion of nests are seen on a regular basis that are over three feet across and potentially contain upwards of twenty thousand workers and at least one queen. What has also been seen are nests close to one another at the beginning of the year growing quickly and merging with one another to create nests with tens of thousands of workers.Polistes
Polistes
Wasps of the cosmopolitan genus Polistes are the most familiar of the polistine wasps, and are the most common type of paper wasp. It is also the single largest genus within the family Vespidae, with over 300 recognized species and subspecies...

Some related types of paper wasp do not construct their nests in tiers but rather in flat single combs.

Social wasp reproductive cycle (temperate species only)

Wasps do not reproduce via mating flights like bees. Instead social wasps reproduce between a fertile queen and male wasp; in some cases queens may be fertilized by the sperm of several males. After successfully mating, the male's sperm cells
Spermatozoon
A spermatozoon is a motile sperm cell, or moving form of the haploid cell that is the male gamete. A spermatozoon joins an ovum to form a zygote...

 are stored in a tightly packed ball inside the queen. The sperm cells are kept stored in a dormant state until they are needed the following spring. At a certain time of the year (often around autumn), the bulk of the wasp colony dies away, leaving only the young mated queens alive. During this time they leave the nest and find a suitable area to hibernate
Hibernation
Hibernation is a state of inactivity and metabolic depression in animals, characterized by lower body temperature, slower breathing, and lower metabolic rate. Hibernating animals conserve food, especially during winter when food supplies are limited, tapping energy reserves, body fat, at a slow rate...

 for the winter.

First stage

After emerging from hibernation during early summer, the young queens search for a suitable nesting site. Upon finding an area for their colony, the queen constructs a basic wood fiber nest roughly the size of a walnut into which she will begin to lay eggs
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

.

Second stage

The sperm that was stored earlier and kept dormant over winter is now used to fertilize the eggs being laid. The storage of sperm inside the queen allows her to lay a considerable number of fertilized eggs without the need for repeated mating
Mating
In biology, mating is the pairing of opposite-sex or hermaphroditic organisms for copulation. In social animals, it also includes the raising of their offspring. Copulation is the union of the sex organs of two sexually reproducing animals for insemination and subsequent internal fertilization...

 with a male wasp. For this reason a single queen is capable of building an entire colony by herself. The queen initially raises the first several sets of wasp eggs until enough sterile female workers exist to maintain the offspring without her assistance. All of the eggs produced at this time are sterile female workers who will begin to construct a more elaborate nest around their queen as they grow in number.

Third stage

By this time the nest size has expanded considerably and now numbers between several hundred and several thousand wasps. Towards the end of the summer, the queen begins to run out of stored sperm to fertilize more eggs. These eggs develop into fertile
Fertility
Fertility is the natural capability of producing offsprings. As a measure, "fertility rate" is the number of children born per couple, person or population. Fertility differs from fecundity, which is defined as the potential for reproduction...

 males and fertile female queens. The male drones then fly out of the nest and find a mate thus perpetuating the wasp reproductive cycle. In most species of social wasp the young queens mate in the vicinity of their home nest and do not travel like their male counterparts do. The young queens will then leave the colony to hibernate for the winter once the other worker wasps and founder queen have started to die off. After successfully mating with a young queen, the male drones die off as well. Generally, young queens and drones from the same nest do not mate with each other; this ensures more genetic variation
Genetic variation
Genetic variation, variation in alleles of genes, occurs both within and among populations. Genetic variation is important because it provides the “raw material” for natural selection. Genetic variation is brought about by mutation, a change in a chemical structure of a gene. Polyploidy is an...

 within wasp populations, especially considering that all members of the colony are theoretically the direct genetic descendants of the founder queen and a single male drone. In practice, however, colonies can sometimes consist of the offspring of several male drones. Wasp queens generally (but not always) create new nests each year, probably because the weak construction of most nests render them uninhabitable after the winter.

Unlike honey bee
Honey bee
Honey bees are a subset of bees in the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax. Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis...

 queens, wasp queens typically live for only one year. Also queen wasps do not organize their colony or have any raised status and hierarchical
Hierarchy
A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another...

 power within the social structure. They are more simply the reproductive element of the colony and the initial builder of the nest in those species which construct nests.

Social wasp caste structure

Not all social wasps have castes that are physically different in size and structure. In many polistine paper wasp
Polistinae
The Polistinae are eusocial wasps closely related to the more familiar yellowjackets, but placed in their own subfamily, containing four tribes; with some 1100 species total, it is the second most diverse subfamily within Vespidae, and while most species are tropical or subtropical, they include...

s and stenogastrines
Stenogastrinae
The Stenogastrinae are a subfamily of Indomalayan and New Guinean Vespid wasps with a diverse biology from solitary to social.The subfamily contains 8 currently recognized genera....

, for example, the castes of females are determined behaviorally, through dominance interactions, rather than having caste predetermined. All female wasps are potentially capable of becoming a colony's queen and this process is often determined by which female successfully lays eggs first and begins construction of the nest. Evidence suggests that females compete amongst each other by eating the eggs of other rival females. The queen may, in some cases, simply be the female that can eat the largest volume of eggs while ensuring that her own eggs survive (often achieved by laying the most). This process theoretically determines the strongest and most reproductively capable female and selects her as the queen. Once the first eggs have hatched, the subordinate females stop laying eggs and instead forage for the new queen and feed the young; that is, the competition largely ends, with the losers becoming workers, though if the dominant female dies, a new hierarchy may be established with a former "worker" acting as the replacement queen. Polistine nests are considerably smaller than many other social wasp nests, typically housing only around 250 wasps, compared to the several thousand common with yellowjackets, and stenogastrines have the smallest colonies of all, rarely with more than a dozen wasps in a mature colony.

Common families

  • Agaonidae – fig wasp
    Fig wasp
    Fig wasps are wasps of the family Agaonidae which pollinate figs or are otherwise associated with figs, a coevolutional relationship that has been developing for at least 80 million years...

    s
  • Chalcididae
    Chalcididae
    The Chalcididae are a moderate-sized family within the Chalcidoidea, composed mostly of parasitoids and a few hyperparasitoids. The family is apparently polyphyletic, though the different subfamilies may each be monophyletic, and some may be elevated to family status in the near future. As...

  • Chrysididae – cuckoo wasp
    Cuckoo wasp
    Commonly known as cuckoo wasps, the Hymenopteran family Chrysididae is a very large cosmopolitan group of parasitoid or cleptoparasitic wasps, often highly sculptured, with brilliantly colored metallic-like bodies...

    s
  • Crabronidae
    Crabronidae
    Crabronidae is a large family of wasps, that includes nearly all of the species formerly comprising the now-defunct superfamily Sphecoidea. It collectively includes well over 200 genera, containing well over 9000 species. Crabronids were originally a part of Sphecidae, but the latter name is now...

     – sand wasps and relatives, e.g. the Cicada killer wasp
    Cicada killer wasp
    Sphecius speciosus, often simply referred to as the cicada killer is a wasp species. Cicada killer wasps are large, solitary wasps in the family Crabronidae. The name may be applied to any species of crabronid which uses cicadas as prey, though in North America it is typically applied to a single...

    . In 2011, a new giant black warrior wasp species has been found in Indonesia
    Indonesia
    Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

     with approximately two-and a-half inches long for males and smaller for females but still larger than other members of their subfamily, Larrinae.
  • Cynipidae – gall wasp
    Gall wasp
    Gall wasps , also called Gallflies, are a family of the order Hymenoptera and are classified with the Apocrita suborder of wasps in the superfamily Cynipoidea...

    s
  • Encyrtidae
    Encyrtidae
    Encyrtidae is a large family of parasitic wasps, with some 3710 described species in some 455 genera . The larvae of the majority are primary parasitoids on Hemiptera, though other hosts are attacked, and details of the life history can be variable Encyrtidae is a large family of parasitic wasps,...

  • Eulophidae
    Eulophidae
    Eulophidae is a large family of hymenopteran insects, with over 4,300 described species in some 300 genera . The family as presently defined also includes the genus Elasmus, which was previously treated as a separate family, "Elasmidae", and is now treated as a subfamily of Eulophidae...

  • Eupelmidae
    Eupelmidae
    Eupelmidae is a family of parasitic wasps in the superfamily Chalcidoidea. The group is apparently polyphyletic, though the different subfamilies may each be monophyletic, and may be elevated to family status in the near future. As presently defined, there are over 905 described species in 45 genera...

  • Ichneumonidae
    Ichneumonidae
    Ichneumonidae is a family within the insect order Hymenoptera. Insects in this family are commonly called ichneumon wasps. Less exact terms are ichneumon flies , or scorpion wasps due to the extreme lengthening and curving of the abdomen...

    , and Braconidae
    Braconidae
    Braconidae is a family of parasitoid wasps and one of the richest families of insects. Between 50,000 and 150,000 species exist worldwide. The species are grouped into about 45 subfamilies and 1,000 genera, some important ones being: Ademon, Aphanta, Asobara, Bracon hebetor, Cenocoelius, Chaenusa,...

  • Mutillidae
    Mutillidae
    Mutillidae are a family of more than 3,000 species of wasp whose wingless females resemble ants. Their common name velvet ant refers to their dense pile of hair which most often is bright scarlet or orange but may also be black, white, silver, or gold. Their bright colours serve as aposematic signals...

     – velvet ants
    Mutillidae
    Mutillidae are a family of more than 3,000 species of wasp whose wingless females resemble ants. Their common name velvet ant refers to their dense pile of hair which most often is bright scarlet or orange but may also be black, white, silver, or gold. Their bright colours serve as aposematic signals...

  • Mymaridae – fairyflies
    Fairyfly
    Mymaridae, commonly known as fairyflies or fairy wasps, is a family of chalcid wasps found in temperate and tropical regions throughout the world. It contains around 100 genera and 1424 species. All of them are parasitoids of the eggs of other insects...

  • Pompilidae – spider wasp
    Spider wasp
    Wasps in the family Pompilidae are commonly called spider wasps . The family is cosmopolitan, with some 5,000 species in 6 subfamilies...

    s
  • Pteromalidae
    Pteromalidae
    Pteromalidae is a very large family of parasitic wasps, with some 3,450 described species in some 640 genera...

  • Scelionidae
    Scelionidae
    The Hymenopteran family Scelionidae is a very large cosmopolitan group of exclusively parasitoid wasps, mostly small , often black, often highly sculptured, with elbowed antennae that have an 9- or 10-segmented flagellum...

  • Scoliidae
    Scoliidae
    Scoliidae, the scoliid wasps, is a small family represented by 6 genera and about 20 species in North America, but they occur worldwide, with a total of around 300 species. They tend to be black, often marked with yellow or orange, and their wing tips are distinctively corrugated...

     – scoliid wasps
  • Sphecidae
    Sphecidae
    Sphecidae is a cosmopolitan family of wasps that include digger wasps, mud daubers and other familiar types that all fall under the category of thread-waisted wasps.The are predominently solitary wasp,distributed world wide.At present this family consist of eight subfamilies and three tribes...

     – digger wasp
    Digger wasp
    Wasps of the genus Sphex are cosmopolitan predators of the family Sphecidae that sting and paralyze prey insects. There are over 130 known digger wasp species. In preparation for egg laying, they construct a protected "nest" and then stock it with captured insects...

    s
  • Tiphiidae
    Tiphiidae
    Tiphiidae is a family of large solitary wasps whose larvae are almost universally parasitoids of various beetle larvae, especially those in the superfamily Scarabaeoidea....

     – flower wasps
  • Torymidae
    Torymidae
    Torymidae is a family of wasps that consists of attractive metallic species with enlarged hind legs, and generally with a long ovipositor. Many are parasitoids on gall-forming insects, and some are phytophagous species, sometimes usurping the galls formed by other insects. There are over 960...

  • Trichogrammatidae
    Trichogrammatidae
    The family Trichogrammatidae are tiny wasps in the Chalcidoidea that include some of the smallest of all insects, with most species having adults less than 1 mm in length. There are over 840 species in ca. 80 genera worldwide. Trichogrammatids parasitize the eggs of many different orders of insects...

  • Vespid
    Vespid
    The Vespidae are a large , diverse, cosmopolitan family of wasps, including nearly all the known eusocial wasps and many solitary wasps. Each social wasp colony includes a queen and a number of female workers with varying degrees of sterility relative to the queen. In temperate social species,...

    ae – Common Wasp
    Common wasp
    The common wasp, Vespula vulgaris, known in the US as the yellowjacket, is found in much of the Northern Hemisphere and has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand. It is a eusocial vespid which builds its grey paper nest in or on a structure capable of supporting it...

    , yellowjacket
    Yellowjacket
    Yellowjacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as "wasps" in other English-speaking countries...

    s, hornet
    Hornet
    Hornets are the largest eusocial wasps; some species can reach up to in length. The true hornets make up the genus Vespa and are distinguished from other vespines by the width of the vertex , which is proportionally larger in Vespa and by the anteriorly rounded gasters .- Life cycle :In...

    s, paper wasp
    Paper wasp
    Paper wasps are -long wasps that gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva, and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material...

    s (umbrella), potter wasp
    Potter wasp
    Potter wasps are a cosmopolitan wasp group presently treated as a subfamily of Vespidae, but sometimes recognized in the past as a separate family, Eumenidae.-Recognition:...

    s, pollen wasp
    Pollen wasp
    Pollen wasps are unusual wasps that are typically treated as a subfamily of Vespidae, but have in the past sometimes been recognized as a separate family, "Masaridae", which also included the subfamily Euparagiinae. It is a small subfamily, unique among wasps in feeding their larvae exclusively...

    s

Wasp control

Although wasps are a benefactor to the ecosystem in that they feed on other insects or use them as hosts during larval stages, they are widely considered as pests due to their apparent aggression and painful sting
Stinger
-Biology:* Stinger, an organ or body part found in various animals that usually delivers some kind of venom.* Stinger , a minor neurological injury suffered by athletes.-Sports and entertainment:...

. Insecticides such as carbaryl
Carbaryl
Carbaryl is a chemical in the carbamate family used chiefly as an insecticide. It is a white crystalline solid commonly sold under the brand name Sevin, a trademark of the Bayer Company. Union Carbide discovered carbaryl and introduced it commercially in 1958...

, chlorpyrifos
Chlorpyrifos
Chlorpyrifos is a crystalline organophosphate insecticide that inhibits acetylcholinesterase and is used to control insect pests. It is known by many trade names...

, acephate
Acephate
Acephate is an organophosphate foliar insecticide of moderate persistence with residual systemic activity of about 10-15 days at the recommended use rate. It is used primarily for control of aphids, including resistant species, in vegetables and in horticulture...

 and diazinon
Diazinon
Diazinon , a colorless to dark brown liquid, is a thiophosphoric acid ester developed in 1952 by Ciba-Geigy, a Swiss chemical company...

 are sometimes used to control their population.

In domestic infestation cases, many homeowners will attempt to remove the nest themselves before calling an exterminator. Many methods have been tested, like beating, burning and using smoke to immobilize the wasps, allowing the home owner to destroy the nest with few or no stings. A popular method of wasp nest removal is to use a vacuum cleaner; this will be securely fitted near the opening of the nest and left to capture the wasps over a period of time, until there are insufficient workers to maintain the nest or it is safe enough to destroy.

See also

  • Advertising colouration
    Advertising colouration
    Advertising coloration refers to semantic colours seen in numerous organisms. It is the opposite of camouflage, 'advertising' the location of an organism or part of its anatomy. These signals are significant for their receivers...

  • Bee and wasp stings
  • Bee-eater
    Bee-eater
    The bee-eaters are a group of near-passerine birds in the family Meropidae. Most species are found in Africa and Asia but others occur in southern Europe, Australia, and New Guinea. They are characterised by richly coloured plumage, slender bodies, and usually elongated central tail feathers...

    s, bird predators of wasps
  • Characteristics of common wasps and bees
    Characteristics of common wasps and bees
    While easily confused at a distance or without close observation, there are many different characteristics of common large bees and wasps which can be used to identify them.-External links:* * *...

  • German Wasp
    German wasp
    The German wasp, or European wasp, Vespula germanica, is a wasp found in much of the Northern Hemisphere, native to Europe, northern Africa, and temperate Asia. It has been introduced and is well-established in many other places, including North America, South America , Australia and New Zealand...

  • Mud dauber
    Mud dauber
    Mud dauber is a name commonly applied to a number of wasps from either the family Sphecidae or Crabronidae that build their nests from mud...

    s, a common group of wasps
  • Parasitic wasp
    Parasitic wasp
    The term parasitoid wasp refers to a large evolutionary grade of hymenopteran superfamilies, mainly in the Apocrita. They are primarily parasitoids of other animals, mostly other arthropods...

    s, a diverse group of wasps
  • Schmidt Sting Pain Index
    Schmidt Sting Pain Index
    The Schmidt Sting Pain Index is a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Arizona...

  • Tarantula hawk
    Tarantula hawk
    A tarantula hawk is a spider wasp which hunts tarantulas as food for its larvae. Tarantula hawks belong to any of the many species in the genera Pepsis and Hemipepsis in the family Pompilidae ....

  • Volucella pellucens
    Volucella pellucens
    Volucella pellucens is a hover-fly. It occurs in much of Europe, and across Asia to Japan.It is about 15–16 mm in length with a broad body. It is mainly black, but the front part of the abdomen has a broad yellow band, giving it the appearance of a bee or wasp...


External links

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