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name applied to many winged insectsinsect,
invertebrate animal of the class Insecta of the phylum Arthropoda. Like other arthropods, an insect has a hard outer covering, or exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed legs. Adult insects typically have wings and are the only flying invertebrates.
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 of the order Hymenoptera, which also includes ants and bees. Most wasps are carnivorous, feeding on insects, grubs, or spiders. They have biting mouthparts, and the females have stings with which they paralyze their prey. The sting can be used repeatedly. The thorax of a wasp is attached to the abdomen by a narrow stalk (hence the term "wasp-waisted"). Some wasps are solid black or dark blue, but most have red, orange, or yellow wings or markings. Stripes are common. The great majority of the 20,000 species are solitary, but one family (the Vespidae) includes both social forms (the paper wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets) and solitary forms (e.g., the potter wasps).

Social Wasps

In social wasp colonies there are usually three castes: the egg-laying queens (one or more per colony), the workers, or sexually undeveloped females, and the drones, or males. Social wasps build nests of a coarse, papery material, prepared by masticating wood fiber. The eggs are deposited in the compartments, or cells, of the nest, where they develop into larvae and then pupae, emerging as adults. Adult social wasps feed chiefly on nectar and plant sap but feed the larvae with masticated animal food. In temperate regions a colony lasts a single season, the drones and workers dying in the fall. The mated queens take shelter during the winter and in spring lay eggs and start new colonies. In the tropics colonies continue indefinitely, dividing when they grow very large. The paper wasps (Polistes), of nearly worldwide distribution, usually hang their nests, consisting of a single comb (layer of cells), from eaves, branches, or other shelters. The hornets and yellow jackets (Vespa), found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, build a large, round nest of many combs, covered with a paper sheath; in some species this nest is built underground.

Solitary Wasps

Among the solitary wasps, each species usually favors a particular type of prey. The female seals a single egg in a nest provided with paralyzed prey on which the developing larva feeds. In many species the nest is in a burrow or small hole dug by the female. The jug-shaped nests of the potter, or mason, wasps (Eumenes) of Europe and North America are made of mud and fastened to plants. Often seen under bridges and eaves are the "organ-pipe" nests of the mud-dauber wasps (Sceliphron), consisting of long, narrow, adjacent cells of mud. Other solitary wasps are the tarantula hawks (Pepsis) and cicada killers (Sphecus) of the SW United States, which hunt prey much larger than themselves.

Parasitic Wasps

Some wasps are parasitic. The cuckoo wasps (family Chrysididae), of worldwide distribution, are brilliantly colored wasps that lay their eggs in other wasps' nests. The ichneumon fliesichneumon fly
, common name for a family of insects, related to the wasps, whose larvae are parasitic on many other insects. Over 3,000 species of ichneumon flies, also known as ichneumon wasps, are found throughout the United States except in the Southwest.
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 are wasps that lay their eggs in the larvae of other insects. The gall wasps (see gallgall,
abnormal growth, or hypertrophy, of plant tissue produced by chemical or mechanical (e.g., the rubbing together of two branches) irritants or hormones. Chemical irritants are released by parasitic fungi, bacteria, nematode worms, gall insects, and mites.
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) lay eggs in plant tissues. Wasps that prey on harmful insects have been introduced in various regions to control these pests.


The name wasp is sometimes restricted to the so-called true wasps, members of the superfamilies Vespoidae and Sphecoidae. Wasps are classified in the phylum ArthropodaArthropoda
[Gr.,=jointed feet], largest and most diverse animal phylum. The arthropods include crustaceans, insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions, and the extinct trilobites.
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, class Insecta, order Hymenoptera.


(invertebrate zoology)
The common name for members of 67 families of the order Hymenoptera; all are important as parasites or predators of injurious pests.


1. any social hymenopterous insect of the family Vespidae, esp Vespula vulgaris (common wasp), typically having a black-and-yellow body and an ovipositor specialized for stinging
2. any of various solitary hymenopterans, such as the digger wasp and gall wasp


(Wireless ASP) An application provider that hosts wireless applications over the Web. There are WASPs that offer ready-made applications for particular industries, while others, such as Air2Web, provide a platform that serves as a gateway between the wireless application and the air interfaces. The latter can be hosted by the provider or the customer. See Air2Web.
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