Wasps are among the most recognizable insects globally, infamous for their deadly stings. They show a variety of behaviors, some parasitoid, others predatory, with hornets, mud daubers, and yellowjackets all being known wasp species. Unlike most other parasites, they end up killing their hosts.

Scientific Classification


Scientific Classification


Despite being aggressive and an annoying pest, wasps play a crucial role in pest management and act as pollinators to flowering plants. They first appeared way back in the Jurassic era, with more diverse species evolving during the Cretaceous period.

Types of Wasps

List of Different Types of Wasps

They are split in two categories, social, and solitary. The social wasps form groups led by a queen, consisting of workers and drones, while the solitary wasps are parasitoid in nature, i.e., lay eggs on or in other insects.

Social Wasps

  • Common Wasp
  • Asian Giant Hornet
  • Camoati
  • Northern Paper Wasp
  • European Hornet
  • Common Paper Wasp
  • Bald-Faced Hornet
  • Asian Hornet
  • European Paper Wasp
  • German Yellowjacket
  • Southern Yellowjacket
  • Red Paper Wasp
  • Oriental Hornet
  • Australian Hornet
  • Asian Paper Wasp
  • Eastern Yellowjacket
  • Lesser Banded Hornet
  • Yellow Hornet
  • Common Aerial Hornet
  • Western Yellowjacket
  • Black-Bellied Hornet
  • Dybowski’s Hornet
  • Black-Tailed Hornet
  • Executioner Wasp
  • Tree Wasp
  • Mexican Honey Wasp
  • Median Wasp

Solitary Wasps

  • Braconid Wasp
  • Fairy Wasp
  • Cicada Killer Wasp
  • Blue-Winged Wasp
  • Thread Waisted Wasp
  • Cow Killer Wasp
  • Spider Wasp
  • Potter Wasp
  • Four-Toothed Mason Wasp
  • Great Black Wasp
  • Horntail Wasp
  • German Wasp
  • Blue Mud Dauber Wasp
  • Red Wasp
  • Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp
  • Emerald Cockroach Wasp
  • Ruby-Tailed Wasp
  • Blue-Eyed Ensign Wasp
  • Bee-Killer Wasp
  • Mammoth Wasp
  • Flower Wasp
  • Large Cuckoo Wasp


Physical Description and Appearance

Size: Length: 0.0055-2 in (0.139-50 mm)

The smallest known wasps are those belonging to the fairy wasp family, measuring 0.0055 in, while the largest is the social Asian giant hornet at 2 inches.

Weight: 0.0002 lb (90 mg)

In a social group, queens are heavier than other wasps.

Eyes: Wasps possess big compound eyes andseveral simple eyes called ocelli, arranged in a triangular form in front of their vertex.

Stinger: Females have an ovipositor to lay eggs that also can inject venom if wanted. This stinger can be retracted or extended freely in most wasps.

Body and Coloration: The body of a wasp can be divided into three segments – the head, the mesosoma (including the thoraxand first abdominal segment), and the metasoma (lower part of the body). They are covered with an exoskeleton and have a tiny waist called a petiole connecting both abdominal segments. Long and slender wings are present in both genders, with the exception of females in certain species. The wings are held together by hooks, with the forewings being larger than the hindwings.

Wasps have a vast color palette, including red, blue, yellow, and black. For example, yellowjackets are black and yellow while mud daubers are brown.

Wasp Insect


These insects are cosmopolitan and can be found on every continent except Antarctica.


Wasps can be found in several natural or urban areas. These include cemeteries, meadows, orchards, playgrounds, and woodlands.

How do wasps make nests

They collect wood fibers and mix them with their saliva to create a paste-like substance which is the primary material to build their nests. The nests are mostly constructed in an overhung location, such as roof of a house or a high branch on a tree, and contain several cells in which the queen lays her eggs.

How long do they live

In a colony of social wasps, workers live for around 12-22 days, drones have a slightly longer lifespan, while a queen can live for a year. On the other hand, solitary wasps are known to survive for 3-6 weeks.

Wasp Pictures

What do they eat

The diet of wasps varies from one species to the other. Adult parasitoid wasps feed on the nectar of flowering plants, while non-parasitic specimens feed on spiders or other insects and even on the carcasses of dead animals. In the case of the latter, the adults will sometimes bring back some food to feed their larvae.


  • These insects are commonly divided into social wasps, like the median and tree wasps, and solitary wasps, like mud daubers and potter wasps. The former tend to build nests for an entire colony while the latter do so for themselves and their offspring.
  • Solitary wasps spend most of their time foraging for food for themselves and their larvae.
  • Social wasps have a social hierarchy consisting of a single queen (though more than one has been observed at times), several male drones, and female workers who cannot reproduce.
  • While they are known for being aggressive, wasps only sting when they feel threatened or if their nests are approached by anyone they perceive as a threat. This behavior is heightened during fall when the larvae have hatched, and the workers go foraging for food outside the nest more often.
  • Some wasps, like mud daubers and pollen wasps, dig underground to make their nests, constructing mud cells in safe locations.
Wasp Photo


Several birds are adept at eating stinging insects, including bee-eaters, honey buzzards, and roadrunners. These predators remove the wasp’s stingers by rubbing them against a twig or rock.


  • The most notable physical feature of the wasp is its sting, which helps it in defense, capturing prey, and in some cases, acting as an ovipositor to lay eggs inside caterpillars or larvae of other insects.
  • They have mandibles for biting and cutting and suctorial mouthparts for drinking nectar.
  • Wasps have highly developed senses, most notably a powerful sense of smell and an ability to recognize other wasps via facial recognition. This may be possibly due to a form of sonar.

How do they reproduce

Social wasps mate once a year, after which the males die during the winter. After hibernating throughout the cold seasons, the fertilized female, the queen, emerges during spring. She starts slowly laying eggs, which are looked after by the queen and the workers.

Solitary wasps mate during the spring, following which the female lays eggs close to a food source.

Wasp Nest

Life Cycle

Queen social wasps can control the gender of their offspring by choosing whether or not to fertilize their egg. An unfertilized egg develops into a male wasp, while a fertilized egg becomes a  female. Similar to the eggs, the newly hatched larvae are also taken care of by the queen and the workers until they mature.

Solitary wasp females are able to avoid inbreeding by recognizing chemicals emitted by certain males. They take care of their young larvae most of the time, which survive winter via pupation. After emerging in spring, the adults will be able to mate.


As per the IUCN, currently, no species of wasp are endangered.

Wasps – FAQs

1. Do wasps pollinate?

Most wasp species play no major role in pollination as they lack the soft furry hairs that allow easy transfer of pollen. However, some of them, like the pollen wasps and fig wasps, function as effective pollinators despite not having hair.

2. What else do wasps do for the environment?

They are important predators, helping to control the populations of several insects like beetles, flies, and true bugs.

3. Do wasps make honey?

No, most wasps do not make honey. However, the Mexican honey wasp creates and stores its own honey.

4. Do wasps sting or bite?

They sting and also bite. While the bites may generate mild pain, the stings mainly require medical attention. 

5. Do wasps leave stingers?

No, wasps do not leave stingers behind and are capable of stinging multiple times.

6. Do wasps die after stinging?

Unlike bees, wasps do not die after using their stinger.

7. Do wasps sleep?

No, but they go into a state of dormancy at night.

8. What are the differences between bees and wasps?

There are several easily identifiable differences between both insects – bees are more full-bodied while wasps are slimmer, the body of a bee is covered with hair while wasps have smooth bodies, etc.

Wasp Eyes

Interesting Facts

  • Due to the threatening nature of the wasp, some insects like the wasp beetle mimic it to deter predators.
  • Some studies have shown that wasps can recognize each others’ faces and potentially identify humans, but whether they do so via facial markings or overall faces is yet to be discovered.
  • The fear of wasps is called spheksophobia, which may lead to a refusal to venture outdoors in fear of being stung.
  • These insects have also had a considerable impact on human culture, including fashion, sports, and the military. They have been prominently featured in literature such as H.G.Wells’ The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth, as well as Eric Frank Russell’s sci-fi novel Wasp.