Yellowjacket or yellow jacket is the common name in North America for predatory social wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as “wasps” in other English-speaking countries. Most of these are black and yellow like the eastern yellowjacket Vespula maculifrons and the aerial yellowjacket Dolichovespula arenaria; some are black and white like the bald-faced hornet, Dolichovespula maculata. Others may have the abdomen background color red instead of black. They can be identified by their distinctive markings, their occurrence only in colonies, and a characteristic, rapid, side-to-side flight pattern prior to landing. All females are capable of stinging. Yellowjackets are important predators of pest insects.
Wasps are a diverse group, estimated at over a hundred thousand described species around the world, and a great many more as yet undescribed. For example, there are over 800 species of fig trees, mostly in the tropics, and almost all of these has its own specific fig wasp (Chalcidoidea) to effect pollination.
Many wasp species are parasitoids; the females deposit eggs on or in a host arthropod on which the larvae then feed. Some larvae start off as parasitoids, but convert at a later stage to consuming the plant tissues that their host is feeding on. In other species, the eggs are laid directly into plant tissues and form galls, which protect the developing larvae from predators but not necessarily from other parasitic wasps. In some species, the larvae are predatory themselves; the wasp eggs are deposited in clusters of eggs laid by other insects, and these are then consumed by the developing wasp larvae.
A FEW STEPS TO HELP YOU WITH WASP
Below are a few steps, along with trained pest control professionals, you can take to help rid your home or business of a Wasp invasion.
The largest social wasp is the Asian giant hornet, at up to 5 centimetres (2.0 in) in length. The various tarantula hawk wasps are of a similar size and can overpower a spider many times its own weight, and move it to its burrow, with a sting that is excruciatingly painful to humans. The solitary giant scoliid, Megascolia procer, with a wingspan of 11.5 cm, has subspecies in Sumatra and Java; it is a parasitoid of the Atlas beetle Chalcosoma atlas. The female giant ichneumon wasp Megarhyssa macrurus is 12.5 centimetres (5 in) long including its very long but slender ovipositor which is used for boring into wood and inserting eggs. The smallest wasps are solitary chalcid wasps in the family Mymaridae, including the world’s smallest known insect, Dicopomorpha echmepterygis (139 micrometres long) and Kikiki huna with a body length of only 158 micrometres, the smallest known flying insect.
There are estimated to be 100,000 species of ichneumonoid wasps in the families Braconidae and Ichneumonidae. These are almost exclusively parasitoids, mostly utilising other insects as hosts. Another family, the Pompilidae, is a specialist parasitoid of spiders. Some wasps are even parasitoids of parasitoids; the eggs of Euceros are laid beside lepidopteran larvae and the wasp larvae feed temporarily on their haemolymph, but if a parasitoid emerges from the host, the hyperparasites continue their life cycle inside the parasitoid. Parasitoids maintain their extreme diversity through narrow specialism. In Peru, 18 wasp species were found living on 14 fly species in only two species of Gurania climbing squash.
Adult solitary wasps mainly feed on nectar, but the majority of their time is taken up by foraging for food for their carnivorous young, mostly insects or spiders. Apart from providing food for their larval offspring, no maternal care is given. Some wasp species provide food for the young repeatedly during their development (progressive provisioning). Others, such as potter wasps (Eumeninae) and sand wasps (Ammophila, Sphecidae), repeatedly build nests which they stock with a supply of immobilised prey such as one large caterpillar, laying a single egg in or on its body, and then sealing up the entrance (mass provisioning).
Predatory and parasitoidal wasps subdue their prey by stinging it. They hunt a wide variety of prey, mainly other insects (including other Hymenoptera), both larvae and adults. The Pompilidae specialize in catching spiders to provision their nests.
Some social wasps are omnivorous, feeding on fallen fruit, nectar, and carrion such as dead insects. Adult male wasps sometimes visit flowers to obtain nectar. Some wasps, such as Polistes fuscatus, commonly return to locations where they previously found prey to forage. In many social species, the larvae exude copious amounts of salivary secretions that are avidly consumed by the adults. These include both sugars and amino acids, and may provide essential protein-building nutrients that are otherwise unavailable to the adults (who cannot digest proteins).