Order Hymenoptera: The Bee, Wasp, Ants

What are Ants?

The best way to describe ants is through the life cycle. The ant life cycle goes through four distinct stages: starting from the egg, larvae, pupae and then adult. This is a metamorphosis- or a unique change in body type from one life cycle to the next. It can take as little as several weeks or as much as several months for the ant to complete to full maturity. Factors such as environmental constraints and select species differ in life cycle length.


When a male and female ant mate, or reproduce, the female ant becomes a queen and will start to lay eggs. A queen that is ready to give birth will select a hidden place in a colony and start to lay eggs. Ant eggs are extremely tiny, only half a millimeter in length in total diameter! The eggs are white, oval shaped, and clear.


After a few weeks, a baby ant without legs is born, hatching from the tiny ant egg. This part of the life cycle has a humongous appetite, with the adult ants using a lot of their time to feed the baby ants, helping them digest the morsels of food through regurgitation.


After the larvae stage, a pupae emerges and the larvae sheds its skin. Pupae appear similar to their adults; however they are made distinct due to their folded legs and antennae’s. They are both pressed against their body. At first, the pupae are colored white, but they eventually darken as they get older. Based on different species, it is possible for the pupae to be in a cocoon for the remainder of its adolescence.

As the pupae mature into a full grown adult, the final life cycle emerges as the adult ant. Again, the adult stage is different due to the fact the ant has finally darkened with age, starting out as a white egg. Adult ants are separated into three different categories: Queen, workers, or males. Queens lay the eggs for the entire colony. Workers are usually females that find food, feed the baby or the “pupae”, and clean out then nest of debris. Workers are also wingless, and we usually see the worker category of ants out and about, finding food for their youth. The only job of the male ants is to mate with the queen during swarming process, and they are always winged.

What are Wasps?

Wasps are a relative of the more friendly honey bees we discussed earlier. There are a few key differences between bees and wasps. Wasps are generally more violent, prey upon other bees, are quicker to sting others and don’t die after one sting either.


Wasps make up an enormously diverse array of insects, with some 30,000 identified species. We are most familiar with those that are wrapped in bright warning colors—ones that buzz angrily about in groups and threaten us with painful stings. But most wasps are actually solitary, non-stinging varieties. And all do far more good for humans by controlling pest insect populations than harm.


Wasps are distinguishable from bees by their pointed lower abdomens and the narrow “waist,” called a petiole, which separates the abdomen from the thorax. They come in every color imaginable, from the familiar yellow to brown, metallic blue and bright red. Generally, the brighter colored species are in the Vespidae, or stinging wasp, family.


All wasps build nests. Whereas bees secrete a waxy substance to construct their nests, wasps create their familiar papery abodes from wood fibers scraped with their hard mandibles and chewed into a pulp.Wasps are divided into two primary subgroups: social and solitary. Social wasps account for only about a thousand species and include formidable colony-builders, like yellow jackets and hornets
Wasps are divided into two primary subgroups: social and solitary. Social wasps account for only about a thousand species and include formidable colony-builders, like yellow jackets and hornets.

Wasps are scary

Most animals have developed a well-earned fear of stinging wasps and give them a wide berth. Creatures who haplessly stumble upon a wasp colony or have the audacity to disturb a nest will find themselves quickly swarmed. A social wasp in distress emits a pheromone that sends nearby colony members into a defensive, stinging frenzy.

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