Wasps are flying insects. Though closely related to bees and ants, they have a number of unique characteristics that differentiate them from either.
They are generally between one and two inches in length, and have narrow translucent wings. Most species have long thin bodies. They can be yellow, brown, reddish-orange, or black in color. Female wasps have a stinger. Unlike bees which have barbed stingers, ensuring that they die after stinging once, wasps have smooth stingers that allow them to sting repeatedly.
Wasps make their homes in a variety of different habitats. Like bees, butterflies, and moths, they feed on nectar. Some parasitic wasps also require a host species to be native to the area in order to reproduce. These parasitic wasps have a variety of pest control uses. Sometimes wasps are introduced to an area by farmers to keep the pest population down since wasps kill other insects while doing relatively little damage to crops.
There are two distinct types of wasp species: solitary and social. Solitary wasps live and hunt alone from the time they reach adulthood, while social wasps build nests and live in colonies that may have up to several thousand members. Most colonies have a single queen and a handful of male wasps to mate with her, while the vast majority of the wasps in the nest are sterile female workers who are responsible for gathering food and defending the nest.
Social wasps reproduce inside the nest via mating between the queen and fertile males. The reproductive cycle of solitary wasps is more interesting and varied. After the mating between a solitary male and female wasp, the female was will lay her eggs in small chambers. These chambers may be located underground in specially constructed mud cells, or they may be attached to a solid surface such as a tree trunk or wall. The wasp then seals the cells and there is no interaction between the adult and larval wasps.
Some species of wasps, known as parasitic wasps, lay their eggs on or inside other living insect species. The insects act as hosts for the eggs, remaining alive until the point that the eggs hatch. These parasitic species are highly prized for their pest control abilities.