|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|Wasp is the common name for any of approximately 25,000 insects that have well-defined life stages, separated by a distinct metamorphosis, the adult having a narrow waist between the first and second abdominal segments. About 16,000 species of wasps are parasitic, feeding on the bodies or eggs of other insects or of spiders.|
Many different kinds of wasps exist, with widely varying habits and structural characteristics. They may be divided into the social wasps and the solitary wasps. Social wasps include the hornets, the yellow jackets, and the large, mahogany-colored wasps known as the paper wasps; they live in communities consisting of males, females, and sterile workers. The solitary wasps, including the mud daubers, potter wasps, and digger wasps, produce no workers and build individual nests.
Wasps vary greatly in size. Some of the parasitic wasps are so small that several may develop in a small insect egg. Other species can reach a body length of about 5 cm (about 2 in). The female and worker wasps have a sting, which is used to attack their prey or to protect them against enemies. Wasp venom, or poison, contains histamine and a factor that dissolves red blood cells. A wasp sting can be fatal to a sensitive person. Desensitization can be accomplished by injections of antigen extracts.
Although adult wasps are largely carnivorous, or meat eaters, some also eat vegetable matter, such as overripe fruit. As a rule, young wasps are fed entirely on other insects or insect remains. Several species have economic importance, because they are among the pollinators of commercial crops, and because some feed on such destructive caterpillars as the corn-ear worm and army worm. A species that is native to Africa is known to prey on the eggs of the rhinoceros beetle, an insect that causes immense damage in coconut-growing regions. Many parasitic varieties, which lay their eggs in the body or egg of the host, are useful in the control of some harmful pests such as aphids, codling moths, and bollworms.
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