Wasps are insects belonging to the family “Vespidae”, one of the largest in the insectile world. Regardless of the many types of wasps that exist, this class of insect is arthropod, that is, it is invertebrate, having a jointed body and legs, as well as a pair of membranous wings. Wasps are also characterized by their distinctive narrow waist, called the petiole, which divides the abdomen from the thorax; and by a stinger, located at the back of the abdomen from which venom is injected and which is retractable, or in other words, which wasps can use to sting repeatedly on more than one occasion.
How wasps live
It is the queen wasp, which, after hibernating during the winter, awakens fertilized and builds a nest from mud or plant fibers on the ground or in trees, and even in the roofs and walls of human homes. There she raises a litter of female workers who enlarge the nest by making numerous hexagonal cells in which the queen deposits her eggs. At the end of the summer, the colony will consist of 5,000 wasps that will eventually die with the arrival of the cold, except for the queen, who, after returning to hibernate, will once again assume the function of perpetuating her species.
It is also an animal of eusocial behavior, since as part of a colony the numerous types of wasps that exist tend to distribute tasks such as foraging, those behaviors and strategies associated with both obtaining and consuming food, caring for the young and protecting the nest.
The role of wasps in the ecosystem
Given the rejection they generate around most of the animals around them because of their stings, these insects usually enjoy a wide living space. And no wonder, since a wasp that feels in danger emits pheromones that induce the colony to experience a kind of frenzy in which they resort to a defense marked by the attack of their stingers.
However, experts consider the vast majority of wasps to be solitary insects and harmless to humans. In fact, they point out that they can be beneficial for pest control of other insects that in turn serve as food and also as hosts for their parasitic larvae. In this way, the different types of existing wasps become an ecological insecticide that even protects crops.
Types of wasps
The wasp classes can be divided into several subfamilies within the large family of Vespidae.
- Potter wasps: belong to the subfamily Eumeninae. There are up to 200 types of wasps within this subfamily and they stand out for being solitary, as well as for building their nests using mud or making cavities in the ground or in wood. They are wasps that feed on caterpillars and beetle larvae.
- Pollen wasps: from the subfamily Masarinae. They are wasps that feed exclusively on pollen and flower nectar. This class of wasps can be found in desert regions of South Africa, North America and South America.
- Tropical and subtropical wasps: belonging to the subfamily Polistinae, the female queens of this type of wasps are similar to workers, something out of the ordinary.
- Vespine wasps: also known as Vespinae wasps or hornets, some live in colonies and others are parasitic. In fact, in some cases they even kill the queen of another colony and force the worker wasps to take care of their invading offspring. They are usually more social than other kinds of wasps, are found on all continents of the world and feed on insects and even on the flesh of dead animals.
- Wasps of the subfamily Euparagiinae: this type of wasp has wing venation, a characteristic spot on the mesothorax and uniquely shaped forelegs. They usually live in desert regions of the United States and Mexico.
- Wasps of the subfamily Stenogastrinae: this class of wasps are capable of folding their wings behind their backs, without being able to do so longitudinally as the others do. They are usually found in tropical regions of Asia, Indochina, India and Indonesia. It is known as the common wasp.
On the other hand, the following types of wasps can also be differentiated according to their geographical origin:
- Asian wasp: also called the killer wasp, it is the most aggressive of all existing wasps. It is characterized by its almost black body. It feeds on other insects, including aphids, ants, other bees and butterflies. And it can be found from northern India to different areas of Europe after stowing away on ships. That is why in countries such as Spain it is considered an invasive species that is also detrimental to native wasps.
- Vespula germanica: this kind of wasp can be found in North Africa, Europe, North America, temperate Asia and Australia. Given the geographical extension it covers, it is considered a pest in many countries of the southern hemisphere. Especially considering that its sting is capable of inoculating a highly toxic venom that can cause anaphylactic shock in humans. However, they have powerful jaws with which they bite and crush their prey.
- Cardboard wasp: another type of wasp considered a pest due to the negative impact it has on agriculture. It originates from Eurasia and North Africa, although it was later introduced throughout North America, South America and Australia. Its larvae feed on insects and carrion, while adults feed on ripe fruit. And it can sting people if they use a strong-smelling perfume or if they make sudden movements around it.
However, these are just a few of the most prominent types of wasps, as their variety extends far beyond that, numbering in the hundreds across the planet.