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University of California
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Wasps

Wasps

  • They are predators of many insects, especially crop eating insects.
  • Parasitic wasps are beneficial because they can be released into agricultural systems and they serve as natural biocontrol of insect pest populations. They lay their eggs on or inside their host and as the wasp develops it feeds on its’ host.

Photo Credit:  Kathy Keatley Garvey

  • Some wasp species visit flowers for nectar and can be inadvertent pollinators.
  • The Blastophaga wasp is one of the only way certain fig trees can be pollinated. The tiny wasp actually crawls inside the developing figs and reproduces, and then eventually becomes food for the fig!

  • Wasps are carnivorous and hunt for other insects or spiders, but some also visit flowers for nectar.
  • Some bees look like wasps because they don’t have much hair on their bodies. They collect pollen and store it internally in their crop instead of on the outside of their bodies.
  • Wasps usually have more elongate bodies, longer legs, and sometimes have what looks like a pinched waist, whereas bees usually look more compact.
  • Bees actually evolved from predatory wasps (apoid wasps), so bees and wasps have a lot of similarities both in appearance and behavior. Bees and wasps both have two sets of wings, unlike flies, which only have one. Also, only the females of bees and wasps can sting because the stinger is actually a modified egg laying apparatus.

Photo Credit:  Kathy Keatley Garvey

  • Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets and other wasps don’t leave their stinger behind when they sting something, therefore they are able to sting several times in a row.
  • Some wasps have been shown to carry yeasts to winemaking grapes. This may make wasps important contributors to the fermentation process and some of the different flavors in wine!
  • They are the only known insect (Polistes fuscatus) that can recognize each other as individuals by their faces.

Photo Credit:  Kathy Keatley Garvey

  • They are devoted mothers that will dote on their young all day long for weeks, defending their families with fury.
  • They know each other as individuals, and are great cooperators overall, but there is an undercurrent of selfishness to their behavior, manifest in nearly constant passive-aggressive interactions between individuals.
  • Among insects, they have large brains and are extremely intelligent.
  • Wasps are predators, architects, good navigators, and great learners.

Photo Credit:  Kathy Keatley Garvey

Sources Cited:

UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab: Bees vs. Wasps

Bug Squad: Wasp Love!

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