Real wasp embedded in clear epoxy resin


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Hymenoptera of the world (PDF)



KINGDOM : Animalia

PHYLUM : Arthropoda

SUBPHYLUM : Hexapoda

CLASS : Insecta

ORDER : Hymenoptera

SUBORDER : Apocrita


Ichneumonidae (Hymenoptera) As Biological Control Agents Of Pests (PDF)


A wasp is any insect of the order Hymenoptera & suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. This means that wasps are paraphyletic with respect to bees and ants, & that all three groups are descended from a common ancestor; the Apocrita.

The most commonly known wasps such as yellow jackets & hornets are in the family Vespidae & are eusocial, living together in a nest with an egg-laying queen & non-reproducing workers. Eusociality is favoured by the unusual haplodiploid system of sex determination in Hymenoptera, as it makes sisters exceptionally closely related to each other. However, the majority of wasp species are solitary, with each adult female living and breeding independently. Many of the solitary wasps are parasitoidal, meaning that they raise their young by laying eggs on or in the larvae of other insects. The wasp larvae eat the host larvae, eventually killing them. Solitary wasps parasitize almost every pest insect, making wasps valuable in horticulture for biological pest control of species such as whitefly in tomatoes and other crops.

Wasps first appeared in the fossil record in the Jurassic, and diversified into many surviving superfamilies by the Cretaceous. They are a successful and diverse group of insects with tens of thousands of described species; wasps have spread to all parts of the world except for the polar regions. The largest social wasp is the Asian giant hornet, at up to 5 cm in length; among the largest solitary wasps is the giant scoliid of Indonesia, Megascolia procer. The smallest wasps are solitary chalcid wasps in the family Trichogrammatidae, some of which are just 0.2 mm in length.

Wasps play many ecological roles. Some are predators, whether to feed themselves or to provision their nests. Many, notably the cuckoo wasps, are kleptoparasites, laying eggs in the nests of other wasps. With their powerful stings and conspicuous warning coloration, often in black and yellow, wasps are frequent models for Batesian mimicry by non-stinging insects, and are themselves involved in mutually beneficial Mullerian mimicry of other distasteful insects including bees and other wasps.

The vast majority of wasp species are solitary insects. Having mated, the adult female forages alone and if it builds a nest, does so for the benefit of its own offspring. Some solitary wasps nest in small groups alongside others of their species, but each is involved in caring for its own offspring (except for such actions as stealing other wasp's prey or laying in other wasp's nests). There are some species of solitary wasp that build communal nests, each insect having its own cell and providing food for its own offspring, but these wasps do not adopt the division of labour and the complex behavioural patterns adopted by eusocial species.

While the vast majority of wasps play no role in pollination, a few species can effectively transport pollen and are therefore pollinators of several plant species. Since wasps generally do not have a fur-like covering of soft hairs as bees do, pollen does not stick to them well. Pollen wasps in the family Masarinae gather nectar and pollen in a crop inside their bodies, rather than on body hairs like bees, and pollinate flowers of Penstemon and the water leaf family, Hydrophyllaceae.

With its powerful sting and familiar appearance, the wasp has given its name to many ships, aircraft and military vehicles. Nine ships and one shore establishment of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Wasp, the first an 8-gun sloop launched in 1749. Eleven ships of the United States Navy have similarly borne the name USS Wasp.