We Love Wasps

Wasps have a bad reputation but play an important role in controlling populations of other insects. Wasps feed on things like caterpillars or spiders while others may only take nectar from flowers which also makes them important pollinators. Most wasps are parasites of plants, animals or other insects (even other wasps) and some are so small you can barely see them at all.

Not all wasps are out to get you, most are not interested in humans and can’t actually sting you. They are mostly parasites of other insects and spend their days looking for places to lay eggs or get food or find a mate. Parasitoids have long ovipositors and special skills for finding eggs to lay their eggs into, sometimes even eggs within eggs. The most beautiful wasps are often almost invisible to the naked eye. Behold the tiny Eulophidae wasp below:

Micro Wasp
Tiny Eulophidae wasp, less than 1mm in length, appears to lay eggs in a gum leaf. Anstead, QLD.
Micro Wasp
Tiny Eulophidae wasp. I could see the shimmering wings with the naked eye but the wasps were so pale I couldn’t make out any features, or tell it was a wasp. Anstead, QLD.
Micro Wasp
Tiny Eulophidae wasp explores the vast expanse of a gum leaf. Anstead, QLD.

When most people think of wasps it’s probably the stinging kind like the Polistes or the Ropalidia that we think of first.

Paper wasp guards the nest.
Ropalidia paper wasp guards her nest. Durack, Qld.
Paper Wasp (Polistes sp.)
Australian paper wasp, Polistes sp. Toowong, QLD.

But even those are beautiful in their own way despite their tendencies to sting unwary humans. The friendliest of the paper wasps are the Ropalidia revolutionalis – you can tell these apart from other paper wasps by the nest construction – they build a long hanging nest of cells in pairs as opposed to the flat, round saucer-like nest of the aggressive Polistes. If you see a nest of Ropalidia in a spot not likely to be disturbed, feel free to leave it there – chances are you can live side by side in harmony.

Paper Wasp Colony
The ‘friendliest’ Australian paper wasps, Ropalidia revolutionalis. Durack, QLD.

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