MadSci Network: General Biology


Area: General Biology
Posted By: Kurt Pickett, Grad student Entomology, Ohio State University / Museum of Biological Diversity
Date: Mon Nov 18 23:17:47 1996
Message ID: 848347319.Gb

Wasps have many different eating habits. Some very small wasps are born inside other living insects. These wasps feed on the living insects in which they are born. These small wasps are called parasitoids.

However, most of the wasps that you see flying around your house or school are called paper wasps (because they make nests out of paper--they don't eat paper). As you may have noticed, these wasps have very thin, or constricted abdomens. Because they have such thin abdomens, they cannot eat solid food. Solid food would block their stomachs--they can only drink. Some paper wasps drink nectar from flowers. But most paper wasps have special eating habits. These eating habits are special because all the wasps in the nest share food.

Paper wasps share food in three ways:

Adult paper wasps either drink nectar or catch caterpillars and drink the caterpillar's blood, or hemolymph. Then the adult wasp flies back to the nest and regurgitates (throws up) the nectar or blood into the mouths of young (larval) wasps or other adult wasps. After the young wasps are full, they produce a saliva (or spit) which is fifty times more nutritious than nectar. The adult wasps drink this saliva from the mouths of the young wasps.

Partly because paper wasps share food in this way, they are called social insects.

The above information comes from:
Nourishment & Evolution in Insect Societies, pp. 211-217. Eds James H. Hunt and Christine A. Nalepa. Westview Press, 1994.

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