A wasp is any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. This means that wasps are paraphyletic with respect to bees and ants, and that all three groups are descended from a common ancestor; the Apocrita form a clade.
The most commonly known wasps, such as yellow jackets and hornets, are in the family Vespidae and are eusocial, living together in a nest with an egg-laying queen and non-reproducing workers. 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 centimetres (2.0 in) 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 millimetres (0.008 in) 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 Müllerian mimicry of other distasteful insects including bees and other wasps.
Social wasps are considered pests when they become excessively common, or nest close to buildings. People are most often stung in late summer, when wasp colonies stop breeding new workers; the existing workers search for sugary foods and are more likely to come into contact with humans; if people then respond aggressively, the wasps sting. Wasp nests made in or near houses, such as in roof spaces, can present a danger as the wasps may sting if people come close to them. Stings are usually painful rather than dangerous, but in rare cases people may suffer life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Don’t let wasps invade your home. Give Brooks Pest Control a call today at 423-562-1094 for information on how to eliminate them.