Wasps are in many respects an insect unique, starting with the image of their nutrition and reproduction, and ending with the composition of the poison and the ability to self-defense. All wasps belong to the order of the Hymenoptera, which, besides them, includes also numerous bees, ants, bumblebees, riders and sawflies.
Years of study of representatives of this group led most evolutionary scientists to the conclusion that one part of insects (for example, riders and sawflies) are independent groups developing in parallel, and the other (bees and ants) are already descendants of ancient wasps. At a certain stage of evolution, they developed the ability to feed and feed their offspring only with the nectar of flowers (which is characteristic of bees), or wings were lost, and the way of life became terrestrial or woody (this is the main distinguishing feature of ants).
It is interesting
Many primitive species of ants are very similar to predatory burrowing wasps. For example, Australian bulldog ants are very reminiscent of wingless wasps and even have a sting and a very strong poison.
The first photo shows a German wasp, and below it is an ant bulldog:
Wasps are insects, among which practically equally are both solitary living and collective species. Therefore, for biologists, they are very convenient objects for studying the transition of animals from a single independent existence first to simple colonial life, and then to social interaction with the caste structure of the family.
Scientists have not yet come to a consensus on a stable and unambiguous classification of wasps. To date, they are divided into several families and groups, whose representatives, depending on the new research conducted, sometimes move from one group to another.
The first level of this classification is shared by the family of wasps on solitary living insects and social. The following families belong to solitary living:
The real wasps belong to the group of social insects (however, this includes some species of sandy wasps).
A great example of insects living in the family is, first of all, paper wasps - it is with them that our country's summer residents often come across.
In addition, quite well-known social insects are hornets, which also belong to the family of real wasps.
On a note
The main difference between a hornet and an ordinary wasp is its large size. If the paper wasps are only 2-3 cm long, then this indicator reaches 3-3.5 cm for European hornets. In addition, hornets have a wider neck (this is clearly visible under the magnifying glass) and characteristic dark red spots on the head there , where the paper isps have black areas. The hornet from the wasp is different and more peaceful in character - it bites the person less often.
In the next photo, the hornet and the wasp are next to each other, which allows us to estimate the difference in their size:
The pictures below show wasps of different species (digging, wasp-glisten and copula, respectively):
Entertaining anatomy of a wasp
Wasps refer to the suborder of stalk-belly Hymenoptera. Just a look at the structure of the wasp makes it possible to understand why the suborder has received such an unusual name: between the chest and abdomen of this insect there is a narrow "waist", reminiscent of some of the os long thin stalk.
Due to this feature, wasps can almost easily fold their body and sting their victim almost at any angle, which allows them to win in fights with other, sometimes even larger, insects.
The body of the wasp is divided into three distinct segments: the head, chest and abdomen, and has a strong outer chitinous skeleton. The head of the wasp is very mobile and is crowned with two antennae performing many functions: they catch smells and vibrations of the air, with the help of which the insect can evaluate the taste of liquid food and measure the length of the honeycomb in the nest.
In the photo - the head of the wasp at high magnification:
Each wasp is endowed with nature with powerful jaws - mandibles. They serve both for feeding vegetable food - soft fruits, berries, flowers - and for killing prey. For example, most hornets, attacking even such large insects as cockroaches and praying mantises, practically do not use the sting, but completely manage with strong jaws, which successfully shatter the chitinous covers of their victims.
In the photo, a wasp caught a fly:
The speed of the wasp's flight is quite high, but, however, it is not a record for insects in general. That's why even well-armed striped predators often themselves become victims - for example, large carnivorous flies and dragonflies.
As for coloring, then the wasps are distinguished from all other insects by a decent variety. So, for example, some types of paper and flower wasps have bright contrasting black and yellow stripes and look so that they can not be recognized.
Other species can have a completely different coloration: from saturated black to turquoise and violet. In any case, the color of the body of these insects is always well recognized (especially in the animal kingdom) and allows them not to fall prey to an accidental attack, scaring away many mammals and birds.
On the first photo you can clearly see what a German wasp looks like - a usual kind in Europe:
And this photo shows a sparkling fire, painted in unusual colors (due to the absence of black-and-yellow coloring):
It is interesting
It is the wasps that have the largest number of insect-imitators that copy their color and appearance to protect against predators. An excellent example is the fly-fly fly, which looks very much like a wasp. Birds and mammals, knowing that the body of an insect in black and yellow stripes usually has a dangerous sting, bypass it by side. The very same fly-wasp is absolutely harmless.
Photo fly flies - black and striped coloring really gives it a formidable look:
It is noteworthy that the body of most of the wasps does not have such a huge number of hairs on the body, as, for example, in bees and bumblebees. This is due to the fact that the last two groups of insects are typical pollinators, and hairs help them to increase the efficiency of collecting nectar on flowers. In most cases - in the overwhelming majority - there is no need for such a cover, only some parasitic species have dense pubescence, saving them from attacks of hosts of infected nests.
It is interesting
Some types of wasps do not have wings at all. Such, for example, German wasps, parasites in the nests of their paper "brothers". In this case, the absence of wings does not prevent them from having a sting and a very strong poison.
The wasp has five eyes: two large facets located on the sides of the head and providing a wide angle of view, and three small eyes on the forehead.
The main eyes have a rather complex structure, and consist of a great many individual elements forming a mosaic image. They focus less than, for example, in humans, but perfectly fix any movement of objects in the field of view.
As for the extra eyes, each of them is more like a human eye and even has its own pupil.
Another photograph of the wasp under the microscope clearly reveals additional eyes on the forehead of the insect:
The dimensions of the os vary over a wide range. Thus, for example, the giant scoliosis from Southeast Asia grows to 6 cm in length; not much behind it and the Asian giant hornet - about 5-5.5 cm. But the overwhelming majority of representatives still have more standard for insects sizes. In this case, usually (but, nevertheless, not always) the size of the body corresponds to the degree of danger of the insect.
Sting of a wasp, poison and its bites
Despite the fact that many wasps are very successful in manipulating jaws, attacking other insects or defending themselves against enemies, the main means of defense is the sting.
For many millions of years of evolution, the ovipositor characteristic of Hymenoptera has become harder, stronger and connected with poisonous glands, having turned into one of the most perfect instruments of murder in the world of insects.
Unlike a bee, a wasp can sting a person several times in a row: the sting does not have a notch and is therefore easily removed from the soft enough skin. Theoretically, the number of bites for one attack is limited only by the stock of wasp venom. However, in fact, even one bite is enough to drive several times the larger enemy.
Poison is a dangerous mixture of a large number of different substances: one of them, for example, causes a strong irritation of the nerve endings, the other - leads to the destruction of cells, the third - is responsible for the development of an allergic reaction, etc.
At the same time, in different representatives of families the ratio of the components of the poison is strictly individual, therefore the consequences of their bites are different. Thus, it can not be said that all wasps sting equally.
The photo below shows a road wasp:
According to the descriptions of the victims, this insect stings more strongly than any other, and its bite is considered the second most painful among insect bites in general (the palm of primacy here belongs to South American bullet ants).
And in this photo - a Japanese huge hornet, which has an extremely toxic and allergenic poison. A few dozen people die each year from the attack of insects of this species. Their bites often lead to hemorrhages and severe allergies.
And this insect on the photo is a scoliosis:
Despite its impressive size, the scolias sting rather weakly, and the pain at the site of the bite is not felt for long. This unusual feature is explained by the fact that the purpose of the bite of the scoliosis is mainly the immobilization of the victim, and not her death.
Since ancient times, there has been an opinion that the hornet bite is incredibly painful and much more sensitive than the bite of a wasp . In fact, the poisons of the hornet and wasps are similar in many respects, and the strongest pain and serious consequences that everyone says about the horn are explained by the large amount of poison introduced. In addition, the hornet's poison is somewhat more allergenic and often leads to severe outcomes - anaphylactic shock, extensive swelling and even death.
On a note
Fear of bees and wasps is called apifobia from the Latin "apis", which means "bee".
A unique feature of wasps is the nature of their nutrition, largely determined by the specificity of the life cycle. In their development, these insects undergo the so-called complete metamorphosis: the larva has a thick worm-like body and does not at all look like an elegant fast adult insect either externally or in its "gastronomic predilections."
The wasp larva is a predator, feeding only on animal food, while adult insects, for the most part, manage with a nectar of flowers, sweet juicy berries and fruits. In some cases, the attitude towards food goes even to the extreme: thus, in philanthropists, called still bee wolves, the larva is not physically able to digest carbohydrates.
It is interesting
Even huge scolias, having an adult appearance and a gloomy coloring, eat nectar flowers, but their offspring grows and develops, slowly eating paralyzed parents of larvae of the May bug.
For their larvae the wasps produce the most diverse protein feed, always choosing the most tasty pieces in their opinion. In public wasps, adults catch other insects or bite off pieces of meat from carrion or spoiling fish, then chew the food themselves, mix with their digestive enzymes and only then feed the offspring with the mixture obtained.
It is interesting
The larvae of the social wasps do not excrete excrement, which would simply have nowhere to go from the honeycombs. All wastes of vital activity accumulate in their body, and after the flight the young wasps remain in the combs. Then the workers clean the liberated "cradle".
If we talk about single wasps, then their algorithm of nutrition is completely different and not much like that of social relatives. Females of single wasps, as a rule, catch arthropods, paralyze them with their poison, hide in a mink, and then lay eggs in their victims. The resulting "canned food" will for a long time serve as a food source for developing larvae from eggs.
It is interesting that the victim with the eggs laid in her usually lives up to the pupation of her tormentor. The larva eats it, starting with those organs whose loss will not lead to a quick death, and so although paralyzed prey can lose most of the body, it will still remain alive.
The spectrum of potential victims is very wide. However, some types of wasps are highly specialized and hunt, for example, only on spiders or bedbugs (while they can attack also very large tarantulas).
In the photo below, such an attack on a spider is captured:
But hornets, for example, eat literally everything that consists of meat. Scientists have found among their victims a variety of insects, slugs, worms, millipedes, even lizards and rodents. However, as entomologists suggest, on the same mice hornets do not attack, but only feed at a convenient opportunity with the remains of a table of wild cats.
It is interesting
Population tropical forests The emerald cockroach (see photo below) affects the brain of its victims - cockroaches - so accurately that they can then move around, only controlled by the sow. It turns out a kind of a cockroach-zombie. After a bite, the predator leads the victim by the antennae to his hole, where he lays an egg on it.
Special relationship with striped predators throughout the world in beekeepers. For example, hornets against bees are a very formidable force: some large species can destroy thousands of hives.
In general, wasps perform an important role in nature, including from the point of view of human agricultural activities, because they are capable of destroying a large number of harmful insects. In addition, wasps play the role of a sort of sanitari of populations of insects and factors of natural selection.
Lifestyle and reproduction of wasps
Lifestyles in single and social wasps are quite different. For example, the preparation of paralyzed prey is the only thing an adult single wasp can offer to its larva. This care for her offspring is terminated (only in some species the female can occasionally visit the mink and bring in them additional food).
In public wasps, everything is much more complicated. Their mother-founder wintering in a secure shelter (in a hollow, under a stone or under a bark), and in the spring begins to build a nest and put in it the first eggs.
The young insects emerging from these eggs take on all the further care for nest building and food production, and the task of the uterus is reduced only to the expansion of the family.
The nest of public wasps is built from pieces of a young bark of trees, thoroughly chewed and fastened with saliva. The output is a kind of paper, which serves for these insects as the only building material. If we are talking about fairly large nests of hornets, then in this case winged builders can completely rip off the bark from young branches of individual trees.
In the photo - a hornet's nest:
It is interesting
Wasps never sleep, although in the dark, their activity is significantly reduced. At night they are in the nest and usually chew the bark collected during the day. Near the nest the noise from this chewing can sometimes be clearly heard even a few meters away.
All insects in the nest are sterile females. Only at the end of the summer the uterus begins to lay eggs, from which the females and males, capable of continuing the genus, come out. These young individuals swarm, mate with each other, and then leave the parent's nest for good.
Fertilized females soon find themselves a shelter for winter, as their uterus did in due time, and males die. At the end of the season, all working individuals die with the old female founder.
With the advent of spring, the life cycle of the wasps begins anew, and everything repeats itself according to the nature's scenario ...
Enemies and parasites of wasps
Despite the seemingly high security and ability of the wasps to the collective defense of the nest, they have many enemies. The main ones are parasites.
Numerous mites, beetles, some riders and even certain types of parasitic wasps inhabit the aspen nests. All of them feed on larvae, successfully defending themselves against working insects with their sting, small size, or skillful camouflage.
Os is eaten by bears, wolverines, hedgehogs and many other wild animals that are not afraid of the bites of defending insects. Inexperienced domestic dogs and cats also sometimes do not mind eating striped "flies", but very often because of this they suffer.
Some birds also eat wasps. For example, the beasts perfectly mastered the art of hunting for these insects: the bird grasps the victim across the body, beats it on the branch, and then crushes and swallows.
But the European osoedy - a large predatory bird - catches insects paws on the fly, but before feeding the prey to its chicks, gently tears off the sting. Interestingly, the visual acuity of the bee-eater is such that he can follow his prey in the summer forest from a distance of several hundred meters.
In the photo there is an osoid surrounded by furious insects:
And yet, despite the rather large number of natural enemies, the main threat to many wasps in nature is the reduction of habitable habitats for their living. So, for today the hornet common, usually arranging nests in hollows of trees, but often not finding enough of such shelters because of boundless deforestation in some regions, is becoming a rarity.
As for some other types of wasps, they generally can not be found anywhere else in quantities necessary for the conservation of the population, therefore, for example, plowing even a small slope may lead to their disappearance in a single locality.
Given the rather sad world statistics, some governments are already carrying out special environmental measures aimed at protecting individual types of wasps.