Wasps are related to bees and ants. They have very narrow waists and some have stingers. Wasps can be either solitary or social. Social wasps live in colonies.
They can be a variety of colours including brown, yellow, metallic blue, black and red. Parasitoid wasps are usually duller colours such as black or brown. Other wasps, usually those that sting are more brightly coloured. We are familiar with those that have black and bright yellow stripes on their bodies.
Social wasps: Only the females have stingers. As with bees, these stingers are modified ovipositors but are not used by the infertile females and have developed into stingers along with venom. Wasps are able to sting multiple times. Wasps make their nests out of wood fibres which they have chewed to a pulp.
Many wasps are host specific.
Parasitoid wasps are generally smaller species with most chalcid wasps being only 0.5mm to 1mm but there are species called fairy wasps that are as small as 0.13mm. The largest wasps are solitary, such as the cicada killer (family Sphecidae) and the tarantula hawk (family Pompilidae); both are around 38 mm. As a rule the wasp’s size is relative to the host species it preys on.
Family Braconidae wasps (up to 20mm)- The female wasp will inject her eggs into moths and their eggs, beetle and fly larvae, and other insect pupae and adults. Their eggs are white and can be seen on the body of caterpillars, standing up singularly. There are some species that are specialist aphid parasitoids. Adult wasps are also honey eaters and help to pollinate plants. Species include: Apanteles, Aphidius
Family Chalcididae wasps- There are thousands of species. These tiny wasps are found in a variety of dark colours including metallic copper, black and green; some have yellow markings and yellow legs. They are a parasitic wasp laying their eggs in the pupae of other insects. They are generally beneficial although there are some species which feed on plants.
Family Aphelinidae- Species include: Encarsia formosa,
Family Ichneumonidae- Icheumon means “tracker + footprint
There are thousands of species. These wasps will parasitise the larvae and pupae of moths, butterflies, beetles and flies. Many of these wasps have a long, very skinny body which can be curled at the tip making it look a little like an upside down scorpion, with females generally having very long ovipositors. Many are host-specific, with the female locating the food plants of the targeted prey then searching for the host insect i.e. eggs, larvae or pupae. Some species lay eggs on the outside of the host, some larvae pupate within the host, others form a cocoon outside the host. Species include: Orange caterpillar wasp (Netelia product)
Family Trichogramma wasp- This wasp lays its eggs inside the eggs of moths and butterflies.
Citrus gall wasp (Bruchophagus fellis)
Adult size: 0.15mm-50mm