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Wasps are insects that have strong jaws, two pairs of wings, and a slender waist; most fly, and many can sting. Some have complex social structures. There are over 30,000 different species of wasps alive today.

Anatomy: Like all insects, wasps have a hard exoskeleton, six jointed legs, two jointed antennae, strong jaws, and three body parts; the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. Wasps have a slender petiole, or "waist," that separates the abdomen from the thorax. Wasps have four transparent wings. Many females have a stinger at the tip of the abdomen.

Diet: Wasps eats insects, arachnids (like spiders), and sweet nectar.

Nests: All wasps build complex nests with many six-sided cells. They make the nests with a type of paper that they make by chewing wood and plant fibers. The nests are used to lay eggs in and to protect the young.

Social Organization: Most wasp species are solitary but some live in groups (called colonies) and work together. Social wasps are divided into three classes: queens (large females who build the nest and lay eggs), workers (small females who build nests and feed the young), and drones (males). Every winter, all the wasps die except new, mated queens, who burrow into leaves or soil to survive.

Parasitism: Many wasps are parasitic. Some, like the scoliid wasps, lay their eggs in a caterpillar or in beetle grubs. As the eggs develop, they eat the doomed host animal from the inside out.

Classification: Order Hymenoptera (wasps, ants, bees, sawflies, etc.), Suborders Apocrita (stinging wasps) and Suborder Symphyta, Family Vespidae (Yellow Jackets), Family Sphecidae, Family Tiphiidae, Family Pompilidae, FamilyChrysididae, Family Scoliidae, etc.

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