Categorizing different bugs such as wasps can certainly be confusing, but yes, they are insects.
Wasps are insects within the category of Hymenoptera. This category also includes insects such as ants and bees. These insects usually have two pairs of wings and have jaws that have adapted for chewing and have large compound eyes.
We will take a look at the different varieties of wasps to see how they differ and clarify just what an insect is.
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What is an insect?
For something to be an insect, it should have a three-part body. A head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax is the part between the head and the abdomen.
They should also have compound eyes which are made up of thousands of individual photoreception units. While not great for resolution they give insects a large field of vision and can detect movement. Which is why they are so difficult to catch.
Insects also have antennae also known as feelers as they are used to detect air movement, heat, smell and taste.
There are more than a million types of insects including wasps.
How many types of wasp are there?
There are over 100,000 recorded wasp species found all over the world except for the polar regions. They first appeared in the Jurassic period. The same period that Diplodocus was wandering around the planet.
How big can wasps get?
The largest social wasp (there are larger solitary wasps) is the Asian Giant Hornet. It is 5cm or 2 inches in length. Sightings in North America have raised concerns that it could become an invasive species. Its stinger alone is 6mm or 1/4 inches long. The venom can pack quite a punch. So much so it is known as a murder hornet. A single sting, though painful is unlikely to cause serious injury. Multiple stings of ten or more have been known to cause death in humans as the venom can result in kidney failure. Go here to see the top 5 largest wasps. Go here to see a list of the biggest wasps.
What is the most common wasp?
The most common wasps found in North America and Europe are different species.
In North America, one of the most common types of wasp is the paper wasp. They get their name from the paper nests they make. They can often be found in sheltered areas including on and around houses. These wasps tend to be less aggressive than other wasp types.
Yellow-jackets are another common type of wasp in North America. Similar in size and color to honey bees they can often be confused. Unlike bees, they have stingers that can sting repeatedly. As with Paper wasps, Yellow-jackets can also build nests in man-made structures. Large wasp colonies can number up to 100,000 Yellow-jackets.
The most common wasp in Europe is known simply as the common wasp. These wasps will often build their nests in holes within trees or rocks. These are species not found in North America. They will not normally sting without significant provocation but are capable of inflicting multiple stings.
So, wasps are insects but there are a huge variety of different species and subspecies of wasp.