Types of Wasps Around the Home and Garden

One hundred thousand plus species of ants, bees, sawflies and wasps constitute the order Hymenoptera, the second largest order of insects next to beetles. Hymenoptera taxonomy constantly changes to reflect scientific consensus regarding the proper way to categorize such a large group of insects.

Home and garden interests, along with enthusiasm for the natural biological control work wasps provide on a global basis explains much of the wasp's popularity. Discussions about different types of wasps often begin by defining them as all Hymenoptera that are not ants, bees or sawflies.

Entomologists differentiate between wasps that are related to bees and those wasps that evolved separately from bees. Formal groupings for the bee related wasps remains a topic of discussion. However, today, many entomologists recognize two different wasp families, Sphecidae and Crabronidae, as being related to bees.

Sometimes the phrase sphecid wasps versus vespid wasps acts to differentiate between the wasps related to bees and the wasps in the superfamily Vespoidea, which are related to ants.

Within the superfamily Vespoidae, perhaps the Vespid wasps (family Vespidae) pose the greatest concern to humans because of their habit of building nests in residential areas. Of specific concern is the fact that Vespid species tend to sting (multiple times) as a defensive mechanism, when their nests are threatened.

The slide show presents examples of the types of most common vespids found around residential areas and gardens. The video at the top of the page shows a pollen wasp (Masarinae), so named because of their practice of feeding their young pollen, rather than insects or spiders, the traditional young wasp diet.

© 2005-2015 Patricia A. Michaels

Video Pick