Wasp: Key Facts

Did you know there are many thousands of species of wasp in the world? Or that some of them are far more aggressive than others? Keep reading to learn more about these and other wasp key facts!

Quick Facts About Wasps

Scientific Name:Apocrita (suborder)
Number of Species:Around 30,000
Type of Animal:Insect: Wasp
Physical Description:Slender-bodied flying insects that come in a range of sizes, colors, and appearances. Wasps have six legs, a pair of antennae, strong wings, and many species have stingers. Most have smooth bodies, though some are hairy. Many of the most familiar wasps are black, brown, yellow, or some combination of these colors; though some are bright blue, green, red, or a host of other colors. Most wasps create nests out of mud or wood pulp, and nests are often built on or under the ground, though some instead make their nests in trees, under eaves, or in old sheds and garages.
Distribution:Widely distributed throughout the world, found on every continent except Antarctica.
Habitat:Wasps thrive in a variety of habitats depending on species. Examples include:
– Woodlands
– Prairies
– Deserts
– Swamps
– Beaches
Size:Varies by species: from 0.13 millimeters to 2.7 inches long.
Diet:Omnivores; foods include:
– Sugary substances
– Honey
– Honeydew
– Human foods
– Insects
– Carrion
– Bits of trash
Lifespan:Varies; usually a month or two from egg to adulthood, then two to six weeks in the adult stage.
Life Stages:– Egg
– Larva
– Pupa
– Adult

What Are Wasps?

Wasps are insects known for their aggressive behavior and painful stings, though there are many species throughout the world that don’t sting. There are a total of around 30,000 species of wasp in the world, and they are found everywhere except in polar regions as they can’t exist in a low temperature environment.

Wasps are divided into two separate categories: social wasps and solitary wasps. Only about 1,000 species are social wasps, but these are more well-known than the solitary wasps.

Social wasps build nests and live in colonies of up to 10,000 individuals. These colonies are made up of one or more queens, a few male drones, and many sterile female workers.

Solitary wasps live alone and create smaller nests where they lay their eggs and care for their young. Many solitary wasps are parasitic, choosing to lay their eggs in the nests of other wasps or the bodies of other insects.

Wasps come in many different colors and sizes, but most of them have relatively slender bodies. They eat a variety of different foods, from fruit to sugary substances to insects to bits of carrion and trash.

Check out this video to learn more about one common type of wasp, the paper wasp, and some of the threats they face in the wild:

What Are the Characteristics of Wasps?

Many wasps are aggressive, though many are not. Those that are aggressive will not only sting when they feel threatened, but will call on their nest mates to attack the perceived threat as well.

Only female wasps can sting. Their stingers are modified versions of reproductive organs known as ovipositors; since female worker wasps are sterile, their ovipositors instead function as defensive weapons and venom injectors.

Wasps are impressive hunters, though most don’t eat insects themselves but instead feed them to their larvae. Solitary wasps, in particular, often feed their young specific types of insects, such as spiders, and many lay their eggs directly on insects such as caterpillars, which the larvae then feed on when they hatch out.


There are many, many kinds of wasps in the world, and not all of them sting. They are all beneficial to the environment, though, as they hunt a variety of pest insects and pollinate plants in their search for nectar to eat.

Don’t forget to read about other forest creatures – these are our popular guides about grasshopper, wolf spiders and bumble bees.

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