wasp (Hymenoptera) constitutes an enormous diversity of insects, with some 30.000 identified species. We are most familiar with those that are cloaked in bright warning colors, the ones that buzz angrily in groups and threaten us with painful stings, but most wasps are actually solitary, non-sting varieties. And they all do humans far more good by controlling pest insect populations than harm. Unlike of bees, the body of a wasp is smooth and has no hair.

Species

There are thousands of species of wasps and hornets around the world, and some of them do not sting.

Some species are actually a valuable part of our ecosystem. Understanding their habits, life cycle, and appearance can help you better identify these tiny insects. air. We are going to distinguish the most important ones and some of their characteristics:

Common wasp and yellow jacket

They are from the family Vespidae, the common wasp (Vespula Vulgaris) and the yellow jacket (Vespula germanica) share the same characteristics.

These are the two most common species of wasps and the ones responsible for causing painful stings.

When they build their nest indoors, they prefer to build nests in sheltered locations with easy access to the outdoors, such as lofts, garages, and holes in the walls. When built outside they can nest in old rodent burrows, hollow trees and bushes.

  • Appearance:
    • Yellow and black body, the marking varies by species.
    • The size of the workers varies from 12 to 17 mm.
  • Key facts:
    • Only the young queens survive the winter and emerge in the spring to start building nests and laying eggs.
    • The workers (sterile females) emerge in early summer and take over the construction of the nest. The queen continues to lay eggs.
    • The new queens and males mate in early fall.
    • The nest dies during the winter, including all the males and the workers.
    • Wasps do not group.
    • They prefer to feed on insects and foods with sugar.
    • Females bite easily and repeatedly.
    • A colony can have up to 25.000 individual wasps.

Social families

They are mainly from the family Vespula

  • Appearance:
    • The worker can be a little over a centimeter long.
    • The queen is somewhat larger, reaching a centimeter and a half or almost two centimeters.
    • Alternating black and yellow bands.
    • Two pairs of wings.
    • Narrow waist.
    • They have a spear-shaped stinger.
  • Lifecycle:
    • They create colonies every year.
    • The queen begins to nest in spring.
    • Aggressive numbers in late summer.
    • Colonies begin to decline in autumn.
    • Only inseminated queens nest in winter.
  • Habits:
    • Food: At certain times of the year, they feed on insects, including caterpillars and flies, as the colonies increase, they are attracted to the food consumed by humans.
    • Bite: They can repellently itch, which can be triggered with symptoms ranging from swelling to life-threatening allergic shock.
    • Nesting: In trees / shrubs, or internally in attics, hollow walls / floors, sheds, under porches / roofs of buildings.

Features

The wasp is any member of a group of insects of the order Hymenoptera, suborder Apocrite, some of which itch. Wasps are distinguished from ants and bees of the suborder apocritical for several physical and behavioral characteristics, in particular for having a slim and smooth body and legs with relatively few hairs.

Wasps are also generally predatory or parasitic and have stingers with few barbs that can be easily removed from their victims. Like other members of apocritical, wasps have a narrow petiole, or "waist", which attaches the abdomen to the thorax. Being insects, they are invertebrates.

The wasp is an insect that can be solitary or live in families.

Wasps have mouthparts capable of biting and antennae with 12 or 13 segments. They are usually winged. In the species that bite, only the females are provided with a formidable sting, which involves the use of a modified ovipositor (egg laying structure) to pierce and produce poisonous glands. Adult wasps can feed on nectar and, in some species, secretions produced by larvae. The larvae of predatory wasp species typically feed on insects, while the larvae of parasitic species feed on their hosts.

The eyes of a wasp are shaped like a rhombus. Wasps have two pairs of wings, the back wings smaller than the front ones. Their wings are longitudinally folded at rest and their mouth parts are adapted for chewing and licking. They may appear small and delicate, but their bodies are designed to be powerful and efficient.

Stingers

Most animals have developed a well-deserved fear of stinging wasps and give them ample space. Creatures that unfortunately stumble upon a wasp colony or have the audacity to disturb a nest will quickly find themselves in a swarm. A distressed social wasp emits a pheromone that sends members of the nearby colony into a stabbing defensive frenzy. Unlike bees, wasps can sting repeatedly. Only females have stingers, which are actually modified egg laying organs.

Behavior

Most species of wasps are very social and live in large colonies. There are some that are very isolated and make small nests so that they live alone. When there is a colony, the size of the nest will continue to grow larger and larger to accommodate them. This can help a person identify what type of problem a few or significant numbers of wasps have.

Wasps are divided into two main subgroups: social and solitary. Social wasps represent only about a thousand species and include formidable colony builders such as yellow jackets and hornets.

Social

Social wasp colonies are started from scratch each spring by a queen that was fertilized the previous year and survived the winter by hibernating in a warm place. When it emerges, it builds a small nest and raises a seedling of working females. These workers are in charge of expanding the nest, building multiple six-sided cells in which the queen continually lays eggs. By late summer, a colony can have more than 5.000 individuals, all of which, including the founding queen, die in the winter. Only newly fertilized queens survive the cold to restart the process in spring.

The social wasps of the family Vespidae They are among the best-known wasp species. Most of them belong to the subfamilies Vespinae o Polistinae. In their societies they have a caste system consisting of one or more queens, a few drones (males), and sterile females called workers. The nest consists of one or more layers of cells that are arranged vertically with the openings facing downward. Depending on the species, the nest can be found in cavities in the ground, in tree trunks, or hanging from leaves, branches or eaves of buildings.

The best known social wasps in the northern temperate regions are species of the genera Polistes, Vespa y Vespula. Many are large and aggressive and equipped with formidable stingers. Some species are called yellow jackets because of the black and yellow bands on their abdomen. Vespa species are called hornets, which are mostly black, with yellowish markings on the face, thorax, and tip of the abdomen. giant asian hornet (Vespa mandarinia) It is the largest known in the world, with some workers growing to almost 4 cm in body length and queens typically exceeding that size.

Lonely

Solitary wasps, by far the largest subgroup, do not form colonies. They are distributed in the superfamilies Chrysidoidea, Vespoidea y Apoidea. This group includes some of the largest members of the wasp family, such as the cicada killers and the striking blue and orange tarantula hawks, which can reach about 38 inches in length.

Most species build isolated nests, which they feed on paralyzed insects or spiders. The female lays an egg in each cell of the nest, and the larva of the wasp that hatches from that egg feeds to maturity on the food with which its cell has been provided. The vast majority of solitary wasps nest on the ground, digging tunnels in the ground where they lay their eggs. But the Sphecidae, or thread-waist wasps (superfamily Apoidea), contain more diverse habit forms, with some nests in wood, stems of pithy plants, or in nests made of mud. The spider wasps (Pompilidae) usually build nests in rotten wood or rock crevices and provide them with spiders. The potter or mason (subfamily Eumeninae) of the Vespidae build nests of clay, which are sometimes like pots or vases and can be found attached to twigs or other objects.

While social wasps use their stingers only for defense, stinging solitary wasps rely on their venom to hunt.

What are the differences between the bee and the wasp?

Wasps are distinguished from bees by their pointed lower abdomen and narrow "waist," called petiole, which separates the abdomen from the thorax.

They come in every color imaginable, from the familiar yellow to brown to metallic blue to bright red. Generally, the brighter colored species are in the family of the Vespidae, which are stinging wasps.

All wasps build nests. While bees secrete a waxy substance to build their nests, wasps create their well-known paper hearths from wood fibers scraped off with their tough jaws and chewed into pulp.

The wasp does not make honey. They are active during the day and as the sun goes down they will retire to their homes until dawn. If you need to get rid of a wasp nest, you should do it only at night, when they will not be active. It is generally advised to have it removed by a professional.

Habitat

There are species of Wasps that live all over the world. They live in all kinds of conditions and tend to nest where they have a chance. This can be in a tree, in an air conditioner, and many other places that are often left uninterrupted for long periods of time.

They make their nests with mud and even with pieces of wood that they can find. They secrete a wax-like substance as they build the nest that they use to hold their materials together. They also chew things like wood until it turns into a pulp-like substance.

Distribution

We can find the wasp practically all over the world, they are social insects that form colonies within nests specially built on the ground, bark, roofs and cavities in trees and walls.

Food

More people are stung by wasps from August through October, then the rest of the year. This is because these creatures become more aggressive during that period of time. Their diet changes from consuming various small insects to consuming garbage they can find. That means that they are in more places where there are people and that is when the bites typically occur.

They consume large amounts of Caterpillars and that is very useful when you are cultivating. Caterpillars can cause significant damage to crops so that farmers like wasps are present. However, they often take steps to avoid being bitten by them.

Predators

The wasp doesn't have to worry much about becoming prey. This does not mean, however, that there are not a number of animals willing to eat these stinging insects.

Insects

Although wasps feed on insects, and are sometimes purposely introduced by farmers to protect crops as a natural form of pest control, they are also prey to certain insects. These include the praying mantis, robber flies, The dragonflies, centipede, the flying flies, the beetles and moths. Large wasps even feed on smaller ones. For example, paper wasps often kill young wasps. Although they are actually arachnids and not insects, spiders also catch wasps and eat them.

Reptiles and amphibians

At reptiles y amphibians Predators don't seem to care that a wasp is capable of stinging. They just see another food in the long list of insects that they are willing to eat. The frogs, lizards, frogs, The salamanders and sometimes until turtles they make a meal out of a wasp. These predators do not look to wasps as their main food source, instead they are opportunistic and will eat one if given the opportunity.

Birds

Birds that consume insects regularly eat wasps. Some even hunt wasps on purpose, like starlings, mirlos y magpies. Other birds that make wasps an occasional snack include sparrows, chochines, orioles, blue birds, woodpeckers, warblers and nightjars. These birds they are wise enough to limit their hunting to solitary wasps and avoid disturbing them near the hornet's nest.

Other predators

From mice Small to large bears, other wasp-eating creatures are more interested in larvae than adults. The exception are bats, that eat adults flying. Mice and wheel, skunks, raccoons, weaselsand badgers they are brave enough to occasionally attack a hornet's nest to eat the larvae inside. It is even known that human They eat wasp larvae in certain parts of the world.

The wasp feeds on other insects and fruits.
The wasp feeds on other insects and fruits.

Reproduction

For those wasps that are part of a colony, there is a queen that lays eggs continuously. This may allow the number of members in the colony to increase by approximately 5000 per year. However, all members of the colony will die during the winter, except for a few queens. They will start the process again the following spring.

Nests are built with wasp paper made by chewing wood and other plant debris mixed with saliva.

Wasp nest

Unlike bees, wasps do not have wax-producing glands. They make a paper-like material from wood pulp. Wood fibers are collected from aged wood and softened by chewing and mixing with saliva. The paper is then used to make cell combs for brooding.

The fertilized queen wasp emerges from hibernation in mid-April and searches for a suitable nest site. The Queen raises the first worker wasp brood on her own and upon hatching these workers will continue to build the nest. The Queen, the only wasp capable of laying eggs, will remain in the nest laying more eggs for other young. The more workers there are, the faster the nest will grow. By late summer, normal wasp nests will contain 3.000 to 5.000 individuals and will be up to 30 inches in diameter. With cooler weather, workers and their co-workers can get tired and aggressive with anyone who interferes with them. The cold winter kills all the workers and the males - only the queen survives.

We can appreciate a nest of wasps.
We can appreciate a nest of wasps.

What to do if we find a nest?

Although wasps are annoying to us, it would not be wise to destroy nests without good reason. Wasps are much more damaging pest controllers for forestry, agriculture and gardens. If the presence of a wasp nest is not causing direct problems, then it is best left alone. Wasp nests are abandoned in late autumn. If treatment is necessary, the nest can be treated in one of the following ways

  1. Dusting an insecticidal powder around the nest entrance, preferably using injection tubes, which contaminate the workers when they return and therefore carry the powder inside.
  2. Superficial spraying of an insecticide directly on the nest. Do not use household sprays. Destruction of a wasp nest should NOT be carried out by untrained persons. If the wasps are causing problems, it is advisable to contact the Department of Environmental Health.

State of conservation

Some species are in a state of concern, although most species are listed as Least Concern (LC) due to their diversity as they are very tough insects and can withstand adverse conditions.

Relationship with humans

Despite the fear they sometimes evoke, wasps are extremely beneficial to humans. Almost all pest insects on Earth are hunted by a species of wasp, either as food or as a host for its parasitic larvae. Wasps are so adept at controlling pest populations that the agricultural industry regularly uses them to protect crops.

Curiosities

  • Most wasps live less than a year and some only live a few months, others only live a week.
  • These little living things send more than 500.000 people to the emergency room each year.
  • Common home remedies for bites include covering the bite site with a meat tenderizer / water rinse, baking soda paste, or even scrubbing the site with an aluminum-based deodorant.

List of other interesting animals