Wasps, Bees and YellowJackets
Wasp species are categorized as social or solitary. As their name implies, social wasps live in colonies, which may number in the thousands. Within these colonies, female workers, perform all other duties within the nest. Solitary wasps live alone and rarely build nests. They do lay eggs, but their eggs are left alone to hatch. Some wasps are predatory, while others are parasitic. Predatory wasps serve an important role in pollination. Parasitic wasps typically assist in the management of other pests. Some wasps are aggressive species, which sting when threatened, and, unlike bees, wasps are capable of stinging multiple times.
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila.
There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven to nine recognized families, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae.
Bees have a long proboscis (a complex “tongue”) that enables them to obtain the nectar from flowers. They have antennae almost universally made up of 13 segments in males and 12 in females, as is typical for the superfamily. Bees all have two pairs of wings, the hind pair being the smaller of the two; in a very few species, one sex or caste has relatively short wings that make flight difficult or impossible, but none are wingless. Human management of this species is known as beekeeping or apiculture.
Yellow jackets get their name from their yellow and black bodies. They measure between 1/2-inch and one inch in length. Known to be aggressive defenders of their colonies, yellow jackets are otherwise not quick to sting. The sting of a yellow jacket is painful and each insect is capable of delivering multiple stings. Yellow jacket stings may induce severe allergic reactions in some individuals.
Many yellow jackets are ground-nesters. Their colonies can be found under porches or steps, in sidewalk cracks, around railroad ties, or at the base of trees. A colony may contain a thousand workers by fall. All of the workers are sterile females.
In late summer males will begin to appear. When they become adults, they will mate with the females that will become the next year’s queens. The fertilized females will hibernate through the winter. The workers and the males will perish when the weather turns cold. Yellow jackets are pollinators and may also be considered beneficial because they eat beetle grubs, flies and other harmful pests. However, they are also known scavengers who eat meat, fish and sugary substances, making them a nuisance near trash receptacles and picnics.