CRUEL BUT A BEAUTIFUL WORLD OF WASPS

Wasps are narrow-waisted insects belonging to the suborder Apocrita of the Order Hymenoptera which also comprises bees, ants, and sawflies. There are about 1,50,000 species of wasps around the world. Most wasps are solitary creatures while some (roughly 1000) species like hornets and paper wasps are social beings and live in colonies. 

At least of the described species of wasps are parasitoids which means they lay their eggs on or in the bodies of various arthropods called hosts which could be a caterpillar of a moth or butterfly or a spider. The larvae then hatch and start eating up the host from inside.  When the larvae are ready to pupate, they pop out of the body of the host and make a cocoon sac around the host caterpillar. 

There are several families of parasitoid wasp but the most numerous ones are the Ichneumonid or Darwin wasps and the Braconid wasps. These are two of the most diverse groups within the Hymenoptera order and consist of roughly 30,000 species.

Parasitoid wasps are extremely crucial in agricultural pest control as they keep a check on the insect numbers and help in maintaining the ecological balance. There are several industries and factories which mass-produce these wasps which they then sell to farmers to spread in their farms. 

Then there is a group of wasps that are extremely crucial in pollination. One such family is Agaonidae, also called Fig wasps or fig insects. They have a symbiotic relationship with trees belonging to the genus Ficus or Fig trees. There are roughly around 900 species of fig wasps and each species has specialized in pollinating one specific fig tree species. This is an example of an extraordinary instance of co-evolution where neither organism can survive without the other one. Wasps lay eggs inside the flowing structure called the syconium which basically looks like a fruit. Inside the enclosed syconium, there are tiny flowers that look like seeds. The larvae then spend their entire larval stage inside and when the adult wasp emerges out it is covered in pollens and as they move from one fig to the other, they fertilize the fig trees.

The insect life is immense at The Machan and it has been able to spot at least 10 to 15 species of wasps around the property. I am sure there will be many more if I start searching for them specifically.

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