Like other stinging insects, Wasps are very common in the summertime, and some of them can even be kept as pets. The stings from wasps can be very painful, and they are a nuisance and a leading cause of injuries. These stinging insects are fast at swarming and stinging, and their stings are allergic to some people, in which case they are most at risk of suffering fatal injuries.
Wasps are an enormously diverse array of insects, and there are over 30,000 species of wasp in and around the world. Most people are familiar with wasps that have bright warning colors that buzz around, moving in groups, and with painful stings. Still, most wasp varieties are actually solitary and non-stinging. The most encountered types of wasps are three: hornets, paper wasps, and hornets. All insects that can’t be classified under bees or ants are classified under wasps.
They are a group of insects belonging in the order Hymenoptera and the suborder Apocrita, and some, but not all of them can sting. The many species of wasps in the world vary, size, color, and their relationship with the ecosystem in their natural habitats. They come in ordinary yellows, browns, bright blues, and reds, and they are surprisingly very diverse and with a variety of relationships with other animals and insects.
Are Wasps Even Good for Anything?
Wasps can strike fear in the hearts of a lot of people, and they are flying insects that move at speed, making it impossible to outrun. Wasps are never afraid of attacking, and they don’t hesitate to swarm t you once they feel threatened. These insects are found in many regions of the world, and there are different unique variations of them.
Despite the fear that most people have, wasps are very beneficial to humans even though dangerous as well. A variety of pest insects act as preys for different wasp species to act as a host for the wasp’s parasitic larvae or for food. Wasps are so effective in the control of parasitic pests, and they have a great impact on the ecosystem as a result.
As specialized predators, wasps can attack literally any insect on earth, which includes pests. Wasps are greatly used in horticulture in pest control to hinder pests from attacking cultivated lands and to improve the ecosystem’s biodiversity as they prey on enough members of certain pest and insect species to prevent dominance.
Wasps help in pollination, and just like bees, they jump from one flower to another looking for nectar. Wasps are a great source of pollination, and flowers depend on them a lot to spread pollen and facilitate pollination. In such places as the tropics, over a thousand species of figs have been pollinated by fig wasps.
Identifying Wasps Easily from Other Insects
Wasps are often confused with bees and ants, but they can be easily identified and distinguished from the two using certain physical and behavioral characteristics. Physically, wasps have a slender and smooth body and smooth legs, which have some hairs. Generally, these insects are parasitic, and they come out as predatory with stingers to protect themselves from predators.
Wasps appear to be a combination of both ants and bees, and although their stings, slender and segmented bodies, and their natural habitats are the same as bees’ their physical structure set them apart. You can easily identify wasps by their temperament as they are very territorial insects. They defend their nests with a lot of fierceness, and they do so at a distance compared to bees.
When wasps attack, they swarm at you in large numbers. Unlike bees, not all wasps are dangerous and aggressive, and their role in the ecosystem shifts between being pollinators and predators. Wasps have an extraordinary ability to control parasitic pests, which is what makes them invaluable to horticulturalists.
When winter ends, and the weather gets warm, the threat of stinging pests increases as bees and wasps hibernate over the winter months and start building nests again. This hibernation is what puts these stinging insects in great proximity with people as it is possible for them to build their nests even on your property. This is what increases the risks of getting stung by wasps.
Differentiating Between Wasps and Bees
Wasps are often confused with bees for a variety of reasons, but the two are completely different insects. One of the major things differentiating a wasp from a bee is what happens in the event of a threat. Wasps have smooth stingers, and they don’t lose their stinger, so they can easily swarm at you and sting you multiple times. This means that if you are attacked by a swarm of wasps, there is a greater chance of getting stings, and the more the stings, the greater the chances of allergic reactions to the venom wasps produce.
When bees are threatened, they swarm out of their hives, and they can sting you potentially, but they are a little docile than wasps. It takes a lot for bees to swarm, and bees die as soon as they sting you. This means that, unlike wasps, which can sting you multiple times, you can only be stung by a bee once. Only female wasps have stingers, which are egg-laying organs that have been modified.
Types of Wasps Based On Their Living Situations
Wasps can be classified based on their living conditions, as there are lone warrior wasps and team players. An astonishing number of wasps are the former type, and they live in tubular mud nests underground where they lay eggs in nests and then bring immobilize insects to feed their larvae.
Wasps are often difficult to identify because there are many different types that look alike, and the many different species bring controversies between bees and wasps identification.
Solitary wasps and Social wasps
Wasps can be subdivided into two primary subgroups: solitary wasps and social wasps. Solitary wasps are those wasps that live alone, while social wasps are seen to move around and live in colonies.
Their colonies are started from nothing every spring by a queen who was fertilized the year before and made it through winter by hibernation in warm places. Out of the tens of thousands of wasps species found in the world today, solitary wasps comprise the highest percentage, with a very vast majority inhabit.
Social wasps can be found in a variety of about a thousand species in the family Vespidae and the superfamily Vespoidea. These wasps can be easily identified from solitary wasps in that they have wings that are folded longitudinally when resting, and they are such as yellow jackets and hornets. Social wasps that are most familiar in temperate regions in the North are such species in the Vespula, Polistes, and Vespa genera.
They have some dangerous and formidable stings, and they are usually very large and aggressive. The Vespa species, also called hornets, are mostly black, and they have yellow-like markings on the thorax, face, and abdominal tip.
Social wasps are the most known species of wasps, and they have a caste system in their societies, which is consisted of some male drones, one or a few queens, and some sterile females commonly known as workers. The colony is created during spring by the queen, who is usually a fertilized female.
She starts by building a small nest in which she lays eggs, which later hatch into workers. With the help of the workers, the queens enlarge the paper-like nest made up of wood or any chewed dry plant material which is mixed with saliva.
The workers take over the expansion of the nest, and they build multiple six-sided cells in which eggs are continually laid. By the time late summer begins, there are over 5,000 individuals in a colony. These individuals die off in winter, the queen included, and only the queens who have been newly fertilized survive the cold to begin the spring’s nesting process. Depending on the species of the wasp, these nests can be built in soil cavities, eaves of buildings, in trunks of trees, and even hanging from branches and leaves.
Solitary wasps, on the other hand, are distributed in such superfamilies as Vespoidea, Chrysidoidea, and Apoidea. They are the largest subgroup by far, and they don’t form colonies. Solitary wasps compose the largest family of wasps, such as cicada killers and tarantula hawks. Most of the wasp species build their nests in isolation, and a vast majority of these solitary wasps nest in the ground and dig tunnels in the soil to lay eggs in.
However, there are some wasps from the Apoidea superfamily, such as thread-waisted wasps, which have a variety of nesting habits. Some nest in wood, others in pithy plant stems or in mud nests. Unlike social wasps, which use their stingers for defense only, solitary wasps that sting depend on their sting’s venom for hunting.
There are four types of solitary wasps that are parasitic, and they do not build nests. These are such as velvet ants, cuckoo wasps, tiphiid wasps, and scoliid wasps. Cuckoo wasps have a brilliant metallic-green or blue, and they have a very complex sculpturing on their exoskeleton.
These wasps lay eggs in nests of solitary wasps and bees. Velvet ants are often red or black in color, and their bodies are clothed with long and thick hairs with contrasting colors, and their females are wingless and ant-like.
Most of these wasps are parasitic on the pupae and larvae of solitary wasps and bees. Most of the tiphiid and scoliid wasp species parasitize beetle grubs living in the soil.
Division of Wasps Into Families
All living things have a detailed system of categorization and classification, where they are sorted into kingdoms first, then phyla, classes, orders, families, genus, and finally into species. Like all other insects, Wasps are subdivided further into Hymenoptera and further into families created depending on habits, structure, and function.
This family of wasps includes a wide variety and subcategories of wasps such as velvet wasps, spider wasps, and myrmosid wasps, among others.
These wasps come with a variety of lifestyles, meaning that they can be social or solitary, herbivores or scavengers, and predatory or parasitoids.
This family has some of the most well-known eusocial wasps, including the yellowjackets and hornets. Some wasps in this family’s certain genus are nocturnal, such as those found in South East Asia.
Another genus of wasps has been around for a long period, which proves their existence is taken from Eocene fossil records. These wasps can be found on most of the continents, with the exception of Antarctica.
The wasps in this family are subdivided into four tribes with over a thousand different species in total. This family is second largest to Vespinaem, and the wasps are known as paper wasps.
The Polistinae family of wasps are usually found in tropical climates, but they can also survive in temperate climates.
This is a superfamily of wasps that is further subdivided into three common families of Dryinidae, Chrysididae, and Bethlidae and other less common subfamilies. These families have a vast diversity of wasps, which have common characteristics such as their small size.
The wasps in this family don’t grow past 15mm in size, some of which can sting despite being non-venomous to other creatures. The wasps in the Chrysidoidea family include a very interesting type of wasp, a parasitic one whose life cycle as a larva starts within the body of another insect. Usually, a host is chosen by their parent.
Other Types of Wasps
These wasps are black and yellow in color, and they have a sleek, slender body, which is why many people confuse them with yellowjackets. The diet of these wasps is comprised of flower insects and other insects, and paper wasps are known to be very aggressive when anyone comes close to their nests. These wasps build nests that resemble umbrellas, and they can be found on items that are not used frequently, and on ceilings of structures that aren’t commonly used, and buildings overhangs.
The sting of paper wasps is very painful compared to stings of other wasps like honeybees, and the sting produces allergic reactions due to the venom. These wasps live in small colonies, like social wasps, so the threats to these wasps are considerably low compared to other wasps.
There are two yellow jackets species, specifically in Southern California, and even though there are other species of yellow jackets, they are not as common and so are not considered pests. These wasps can be confused with honeybees and paper wasps, but they are not as hairy as honey bees, and they are stockier than paper wasps. They build their nests typically underground, and they can come at you through earthen tunnels or tiny holes in the soil. Yellowjackets are carnivorous, and they feed on garbage, meat, and other insects such as caterpillars.
Yellowjackets only sting when they encounter a threat to their nests. It is not advisable to go disturbing these nests because yellow jackets are considered the most dangerous of all stinging insects. Their bites and stings are painful and repetitive. These wasps can be found around picnics and backyard barbecues because they like carbohydrates and sugars.
This type of wasps is known to build nests as clay pots, which are usually linked to twigs, but sometimes they are found under carports and roof eaves. Potter wasps prey mostly on caterpillars and other insects they out in their nests for storage.
Spider wasps are usually seen flying low along with vegetation or in the grass in search of spiders. When these wasps attack, they sting, paralyze and then carry the spider to a soil burrow where they lay eggs. Spider wasps are not recognized as stinging hazards, and they don’t pose any danger to humans, but they may accidentally sting children playing barefoot as they hunt for spiders.
Spider wasps build their nests in rock crevices or in rotten wood, while wasps in the Eumininae subfamily such as the potter or mason wasps build their nests from mud. These nests sometimes take a jug-like or a vase-like form, and they are mostly found attached to other objects or to twigs.
These wasps usually build their mud nests in carports, attics, and porches, which they later stockpile with spiders. Mud-daubers are slender wasps almost the size of paper wasps, but they have a thread-like waist. They are mostly seen around moist places where they get mud for their nests from such as outside water faucets, near pond edges, and near watered lawns.
Despite the notion some people have about mud-daubers, their conspicuous flight path near our homes is harmless as they aren’t known to sting or attack humans. There are black and yellow mud daubers and organ-pipe mud daubers that build mud nests for their offspring on shielded parts of a building.
There are also blue mud-daubers, which are parasitic and mostly found around water puddles. They use the water from these puddles to soften their nests made of mud daubers to get in. They remove the eggs and insert their own, after which they reseal the opening they used to get in.
Sand wasps are considered solitary wasps by some people, but at times groups of female sand wasps gather in sandy areas to scare aware intruders and find individual nests.
The female sand wasps dig burrows in the sand where they lay eggs and then bring over preys to help in the development of the larva.