Warrior Wasp – Species Profile & Facts
Did you know that the warrior wasp (Synoeca septentrionalis) has the most painful sting in the world, based on the Schmidt pain scale? Fortunately, the pain will last for a few minutes, but the intensity of the pain is unlike anything you ever imagined. There’s a bit of a debate between the Warrior Wasp and the Bullet Ant and which insect has the most painful sting.
While the Warrior Wasp is definitely at the top of the scale based on pain intensity, it lasts a few minutes. The Bullet Ant, on the other hand, delivers non-stop pain for 24 hours. Still, the Warrior Wasps are some of the most fascinating insects in the animal kingdom. They’re pretty big and very aggressive, even to other wasps in their family.
Keep reading to find out more about these insects!
What Do Warrior Wasps Look Like?
Warrior wasps can be readily identified due to their signature color, usually pure black or a metallic dark-blue shade. They reach an average size of 0.8 inches and they have an elongated body that’s separated into multiple segments. The thorax (mesosoma) is a little shorter than the lower body. The lower body consists of the large, rounded, tear-shaped abdomen (metasoma). It connects to the upper body through a very small waist.
These insects have three pairs of long, slender legs covered in tiny spine-like hairs. They sport two pairs of translucent wings, with the hindwings being smaller. The forewings are narrow, darker in color, and they cover the entire length of the body at rest.
Finally, its face anatomy is similar to most other insects. A warrior wasp has two, thin, long antennae, powerful jaws, and large compound eyes that can cover a very wide field of vision.
How Big Do Warrior Wasps Grow?
The warrior wasp (Synoeca septentrionalis) belongs to the family Vespidae. Insects within this family can vary a lot when it comes to body size. Warrior Wasps happen to be among the larger members of this family. How large? Usually, around 0.8 inches in length, give or take 0.02 inches.
Overall, their size would put them right in the middle as a medium-sized wasp. Not too large, not too tiny when compared to other species. And because of their decent body size, warrior wasps also carry extra muscle mass. This is why they have elongated wings. They need large wings to support their bodyweight during flight.
Where Do Warrior Wasps Live?
Warrior wasps are one of the five species in their genus. They usually inhabit regions of Central and South America, but they may even go a bit further north when compared to other species. You can easily find them in countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, or Guatemala. They prefer tropical climates with warm temperatures and high humidity conditions.
This is why you’ll often find them in rainforests, where all of these requirements are met. Once they’ve found the perfect place where the temperature and humidity are appropriate, warrior wasps will often build their nests on tree trunks. And these nests are quite impressive. They can span even more than 9 feet long. These wasps can also build their nests up to 20 feet above the ground.
What Do Warrior Wasps Eat?
Like other species in the Vespidae family, wasps feed on both plant and animal foods. A Warrior Wasps’ diet will depend on its life cycle. Wasp larvae feed on bits and pieces from other insects, especially caterpillars, flies, and other insect larvae. They get the food they need from the adult wasps in the colony.
Compared to wasp larvae, adult wasps have a more varied diet. They enjoy sugary foods such as flower nectar, honeydew, and the juices of ripe fruits. Warrior wasps will sometimes damage ripe fruit leaving large holes behind after feasting on the juices.
Adult wasps will also eat other insects because they need protein to sustain their muscle mass. They can eat prey up to half their size, and their jaws are sharp enough to rip off an insect’s head in one go. Warrior wasps are actually quite beneficial to humans because they’re known to kill and eat many pests that could otherwise damage gardens and vegetation.
Do Warrior Wasps Sting?
Not only do Warrior Wasps sting, but they’re also very good at it. In fact, this wasp species has one of the most painful stings out of all insects in the world. Together with the Bullet ant and the Tarantula hawk, the Warrior Wasp has a sting rated a full 4/4 on the Starr sting pain scale.
A Warrior Wasp’s stinger is full of venom. Once released into the wound, the toxin forces the victim’s body to constrict the blood vessels in the wounded area. This causes explosive, burning, and long-lasting pain.
While the sting itself isn’t dangerous to humans, this type of pain requires immediate medical attention. The venom isn’t lethal to humans or animals, but allergic reactions might still occur in some individuals.
Do Warrior Wasps Have a Queen?
Not only do Warrior wasps require a queen— they actually have more than one! This is a polygynous species, which means that more than one queen will exist in any colony, at any given time. Still, there’s no exact number of queens per colony. The numbers fluctuate quite a lot. But Warrior wasps have very interesting ways in which they regulate the number of queens in each colony.
When the number of queens is high, the worker wasps will exhibit aggressive behavior that hinders the sexual development of female wasps. That’s because only a queen wasp can reproduce and keep the colony population stable. As a result, the female wasps won’t develop into queens and will continue life as workers.
But when the number of queens drops too low, the worker wasps will help raise the female wasps to develop fully functional ovaries. In a way, you could say that the workers are choosing their queens.
They’re at least choosing the number of queens, that’s for sure. And an interesting result of this regulatory mechanism is that there will usually be very old and very young queen wasps in the same colony.
How Do Warrior Wasps Reproduce?
Warrior wasps reproduce sexually. It takes one male and one female to wasp to create a fertilized egg. However, only queen wasps can reproduce. Female workers don’t have functional ovaries, and, as a result, they cannot contain sperm or lay eggs.
The queen chooses one male wasp for reproduction and keeps the sperm in her body until the time comes for her to lay eggs. At the beginning of each colony cycle, a queen wasp will lay multiple eggs in the newly-built nest. She will then fertilize the eggs with the sperm she keeps in her ovaries.
These eggs will hatch and there will be multiple male and female larvae. Depending on the number and age of the queen wasps in the colony, some of the female larvae will also grow to develop into queens. When the old queens of the colony die, the cycle continues with young queens laying eggs to keep the colony going.
Do Warrior Wasps Die After Stinging?
If only it were that simple. After a Warrior wasp gives you one of the most painful stings on the planet, you’ll at least have the solace that it’s going to die soon after. Right? Wrong! Unlike honeybees, wasps don’t leave behind their stinger or venom sack.
And they most certainly don’t die after one sting. So, any given wasp could sting you multiple times. However, wasps can still die if they sting an opponent too many times, albeit for different reasons. Putting up a fight is still a physically demanding job.
This is why a Warrior Wasp’s first line of defense is intimidation. Warrior Wasps won’t sting right away if it isn’t necessary. They will first engage in a threat display called “gaster flagging”, where they keep their body flexed, displaying their stinger at anyone threatening their nest.
Are Warrior Wasps Poisonous?
Not really. You’ll get poisoned when ingesting a toxic substance. Warrior wasps don’t produce toxic substances in that sense. In fact, they have quite a few predators that eat them without issue, Army ants being one of them.
On the other hand, Warrior wasps produce venom which they inject in the wounds they create with their stingers. So, they aren’t poisonous, but venomous. Luckily, this venom isn’t lethal to humans or animals. So, if a Warrior Wasp stings you, you won’t have to worry about the venom itself. Your first priority should be to dull the pain.
Note that this doesn’t apply to people with allergic reactions. An allergic reaction to wasp venom can range from mild to severe, and serious cases require immediate medical assistance.
Are Warrior Wasps Dangerous to Humans?
Warrior Wasps have both bad and redeeming qualities. The most obvious bad part is their terrible sting. It’s one of the most painful in the world. According to Justin Schmidt, Entomologist at the Southwestern Biological Institute of the University of Arizona, a Warrior Wasp sting can be described as “torture”. According to Schmidt, it’s like “You are chained in the flow of an active volcano.”
That sucks. But it turns out that we can at least appreciate this insect’s sting for something. A team of researchers at the Paulista State University in Brazil have discovered something amazing.
Apparently, this wasps’ venom contains a compound that helps treat anxiety. In their study, the compound was tested on rats and it was found to work as well as the best anti-anxiety drug on the market, diazepam.
Warrior wasps are also very helpful for us humans because they kill and eat many pest insects such as caterpillars and other vegetation-eating larvae. They also feed on plant nectar and they can help pollinate flowers. But they also feast on fruit juices, and they will damage fruit in the process.
Do Warrior Wasps Produce Honey?
Most wasp species don’t make honey, and the Warrior Wasp is no different. The only exception in the world is the Mexican honey wasp, and it only produces small quantities of honey. So, wasps don’t produce any beneficial and tasty substances, especially not the Warrior Wasp. This one is a killer insect that will sting you to death, metaphorically speaking, if you’re not careful.
Warrior Wasps don’t store any sugary substances because they don’t need to. They consume the substances to give themselves and their larvae nutrition and a boost of energy. But they don’t store it for rainy days. However, they will steal honey from honeybees if they’re given the chance. Though, they still won’t store it anywhere.
They’ll just consume it and move on.
Warrior Wasps are both incredibly dangerous and incredibly beneficial to humans. While their sting is indeed the most painful in the world, their venom can still be used for good things. They don’t produce honey, but they’re able predators that hunt pests like aphids, caterpillars, and spiders.
Luckily, their venom isn’t lethal to humans. You shouldn’t worry about it as much as the pain. But that’ll pass quite quickly, as well. I hope this article taught some important things about the Warrior Wasps, and that you’ll learn to appreciate wasps more. They’re not the egotistical and killer insects we were led to believe.
They’re part of the ecosystem and, just like bees or ants, they contribute something to the world. They may not create honey but they’ll hunt pests and free up your garden from annoying bug insects.
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