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Metallic waspMetallic wasp Wasps are flying insects with narrow waists, called petioles, and pointed abdomens. They have smooth, slender bodies, and most species prey on other insects. Wasps have a sharp, pointed sting on their abdomen which injects painful venom into an attacker’s skin. Some wasps live in colonies, sometimes numbering several thousand insects, while the others—the great majority of species—are solitary. Many wasps are carnivorous as larvae, but feed only on fruit and nectar as adults. They prey on other insects and spiders, but only to use them as food for their larvae.

Tarantula hawk waspTarantula hawk wasp

A braconid wasp lays its eggs inside a ladybirdA braconid wasp lays its eggs inside a ladybirdClick to play video

Parasitic wasps

Many solitary-living wasps lay their eggs on or inside hosts, often caterpillars or spiders. When the larvae hatch, they feed on the host, usually killing it in the process. The spider wasp is a large, long-legged wasp that lays its eggs in the stomachs of spiders, having first paralysed them with its sting. When the larvae hatch, they feed on the still-living spider. The black tarantula hawk wasp has a wingspan of 12 centimetres (nearly 5 inches) and hunts tarantulas.

There are more than 100,000 known species of wasp. Only about 1000 of them are social wasps like the yellowjackets and hornets.

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