Are Wasps Insects or Animals?
Yes, some people have real problems with this aspect. All the confusion comes from the fact that many people mistake the term ‘animal’ for species or a group of creatures. Some belong to the group, while others don’t. That’s false.
The term ‘animal’ defines any living creature, from an amoeba to a human, no matter the species, genus, family, looks, anatomy, or any other criteria. So, yes, wasps are animals. They are also insects since being an animal tells nothing about your characteristics.
That’s where categorization comes in, primarily placing every animal in separate categories based on species. In this sense, wasps are insects, but they are also arthropods belonging to the Hymenoptera order and encompassing a variety of groups.
What is an Insect?
Insects are the largest group of arthropods that all share anatomical similarities, despite being different in appearance. In essence, all insects present:
- A 3-segment body – head, thorax, and abdomen
- A chitinous exoskeleton which they will shed occasionally during a process called molting
- Compound eyes
- 3 legs on each side of the body (6 total), often with slightly different anatomical functions
- Segmented legs
- A pair of antennae used for smelling, interacting with each other or traversing the environment
There are also several differences between them, including in environmental adaptations, diets, overall behavior classification (hunter, parasitic, scavenger, etc.), colors, shapes, sizes, etc. The interesting part about insects is that they are some of the most adaptable creatures ever. Here are some tale-telling facts in this sense:
- There are over 1,000,000 insect species worldwide today that we know of. Several estimations hint at more than 10,000,000 unknown insect species waiting to be discovered
- Insects have been around for approximately 300 million years and have sustained little anatomical changes in the meantime
- There are more than 1.5 billion insects for every human on the planet
- The total number of insects make up for more than 50% of all the living beings on the planet
- Insects have adapted to all environments
How Many Types of Wasps Are There?
There are an estimated 150,000 species of wasps around the globe, although numbers aren’t clear. It’s also possible that there are many more still to be discovered while new species tend to appear over time. Evolution never stops.
The interesting aspect is that various species of wasps display different characteristics. Here are a few examples to paint the picture:
- Tarantula Hawk Wasp – A small, black, and solitary wasp that ranks as a parasitoid insect. The Tarantula Hawk’s reproductive cycle includes tarantulas as part of the process. The insect will inject the spider with venom, paralyze it, drag it to its nest, and lay an egg inside its abdomen. The resulting larvae will feed off of the spider’s entrails while he’s still alive for weeks. You can find the wasp in more arid and desertic regions pretty much on all continents where it can find favorable living conditions.
- Asian Giant Hornet – This monster wasp can reach 2 inches in length with a wingspan of 3 inches and a 0.25 inches long stinger. The Asian Giant hornet’s venom can cause kidney failure and trigger powerful allergic reactions. China recorded 41 deaths and 1,600 hospitalized due to the Giant hornet in 2013, placing this wasp among the most feared in its habitat.
- Yellowjacket – The yellowjacket is a common wasp, infamous for its more aggressive behavior when protecting its nest. It ranks as both a pest and a pest-controlling insect as it hunts other pest insects that attack humans and crops. Yellowjackets are a small species, recognizable by their yellow abdomens with black stripes.
What is the Most Common Wasp?
Paper wasps. These social insects got their name from their nest-building behavior. The workers use dead wood fibers and plant material mixed with saliva to build the nest’s structure. They also tend to build their nests very close to human settlements, especially since wasps and humans share a lot of food preferences.
Wasps prefer sweets and sweet liquids, like soda, aside from spoiled meat and fruits. Their rather omnivorous diet allows them to get nutrients from a variety of sources. Humans also create flowery gardens with the potential of delivering a lot of nectar, which wasps also enjoy.
And, as a final point, humans grow bees for honey and wasps love honey. They also love bee larvae and nymphs and even adult bees which they can kill, macerate, and feed to their own young.
All these factors have caused paper wasps to become more widespread than other species and adapt to living with humans quite well. Not that we make good neighbors, though.
Which Insects Look Like Wasps?
A variety of insects look like wasps, and none of the cases are coincidences. The reality is that the wasps’ coloring is designed to alert potential predators of the insect’s dangerous nature. This is typical evolutionary feature for most poisonous or venomous creatures.
As a result, other creatures have developed similar features, despite not presenting the same risks. After all, many of these wasp-mimicking insects are neither poisonous nor venomous.
Some of the most interesting examples I’d like to mention include:
- Hornet Robberfly – This is actually a carnivorous fly posing as a wasp. It’s very similar in appearance, with yellow, brown, and black displayed in similar patterns. The Hornet Robberfly’s abdomen is even pointy towards the end, mimicking a stinger. In reality, that’s the insect’s ovipositor.
- The Wasp Beetle – This beetle is small and slender-looking, resembling an adult wasp. It displays black and yellow color patterns with red-ish legs. An interesting aspect about the Wasp beetle is that it mimics the wasp’s side-swing when it flies, adding up to the visual confusion.
- The Hoverfly – The Hoverfly encompasses several fly species with similar yet distinct coloring patterns. Some look like wasps, while others resemble bees. The effect is the same – a harmless insect posing as a more dangerous one for self-defense reasons.
Wasps are amazing creatures, playing vital roles in their ecosystem. They are both pests and beneficial agents, contributing to pollination, attacking pest insects, and serving as guineapigs to modern medicine, using their venom and saliva to devise new medication.
They also have a pretty massive sweet tooth, which brings them into contact with humans more often than we’d like to. But, hey, at least now you know they’re not all bad.