What To Know About Wasps

Living on every continent except Antarctica with over 30,000 identified species, wasps are known to be fierce predators with the ability to sting multiple times.[5] However, they are economically and ecologically important organisms that play a role in pollinating crops and flowers – and managing invasive pest populations. They even seem to have developed a “capacity for reasoning”[6] by making decisions through known and unknown relationships.

There are two main types of wasps – social species and solitary species. Social wasps use their stingers as a defense, whereas solitary ones use their stingers and venom for hunting.[2] Contrary to popular belief, only females have stingers, and the stingers are actually a modified egg-laying organ.[5]

With a diet primarily focused on live insects and spiders, they are often credited with insect/arachnid population control. For example, most spider wasps paralyze arachnid prey using a venomous sting. Their larvae then eat the victim alive. In contrast, instead of eating insects and spiders, adults – both social and solitary – only feed on sugars. Those pesky intruders visiting your outdoor picnic or barbeque are actually  searching for sugary foods. In fact,  they are adults searching for their next carbohydrate intake[8].

Wasp Species by Region

map of regional ants
Eastern Cicada Killer
Cow Killer

How To Eliminate Stinging Wasps

Elimination of wasp nests should be performed with great care. Due to the hazard of severe reactions to wasp stings, it is recommended to exercise caution when attempting to eliminate a nest. Since social wasps are known to defend the nest aggressively[2], it is important to identify the type of wasp that has created the nest. Paper wasp species as well as mud daubers and potters will most frequently build nests on the outside of building structures.  Other species will build nests on plants and in the ground.  In the event that you have enough distance from the nest to not fear an immediate threat, bait traps are an excellent way to lure them away from locations without human interaction.[4]

Bait traps that use a sugar or protein-based food lure will appeal to the widest range of social wasps.  Due to their diet, these baits will effectively lure and trap those that pose a risk.  As a general rule, wasps disappear in relation to the seasons. As the temperatures drop, they begin to hibernate until the following summer.[1]
[1]Borror et al. 1989; Brook et al. 1982. James & Harwood 1969; Swan & Papp 1972. 
[2]Field guide to common texas insects. Field Guide to Common Texas Insects. (n.d.). https://texasinsects.tamu.edu/
[3]Encyclopedia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Spider wasp. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/animal/wasp.
[4]“Four-toothed Mason WASP (Monobia quadridens). Insect Identification. (n.d.). https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description
[5]“Vigneau, S., says:, E. W., says:, S. M. S. K. A. M., says:, D. D., says:, D. T., & says:, J. (n.d.). 8 cool facts About Wasps that’ll make you love them! Your Connection to Wildlife. https://blog.cwf-fcf.org/index.php/en/8-cool-facts-about-wasp-that-make-you-love-them/
[6]“Dockrill, P. (n.d.). Wasps just became the first known insects who can reason using logic. ScienceAlert. https://www.sciencealert.com/wasp-are-the-first-known-insects-capable-of-reasoning-in-a-logical-manner
[8]What do wasps do? Natural History Museum. (n.d.). https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/what-do-wasp-do.html

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blue winged wasps explained

Spotlight on Parasitoidal Wasps

Parasitoidal wasps are a species that lay their eggs on the bodies of other insects and are considered to be one of the most diverse group of animals on Earth [7].

As in most insects, the eggs eventually grow into larvae and this case feed off the host from within. Ants, bees, flies, spiders and caterpillars are the main targets of parasitoidal wasps. However, each species tends to target a specific host species during a particular stage of the wasp’s life cycle [7]. For example, the spider wasp will seek out an orb weaver spider during its reproductive cycle. In another example, the blue-winged wasp will seek out green june beatles or june bugs which are known to negatively affect fruit harvests. [9]

Overall parasitoidal wasps help control insect populations and contribute to helping agriculture.
[7]Parasitoidal Wasps May Be The Most Diverse Animal Group. (n.d.). Sandhya Sekar. 22 May 2015, http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150522-the-wasp-that-rule-the-world
[9]Blue winged wasp, Scolia dubia—is a real asset!(n.d.). Sinclair Adam. August 18, 2016, https://extension.psu.edu/blue-winged-wasp-scolia-dubia-is-a-real-asset


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