THE ANIMAL KINGDOM
Phylum Uniramia (cont)
Insect orders (cont)
O - Lepidoptera (moths/butterflies)
O - Hymenoptera (sawflies, wasps, bees, ants)
O - Thysanura (silverfish)
O - Archaeognatha (bristletails)
O - Raphidioptera (snakeflies)
O - Zoraptera (angel insects)
O - Grylloblattodea (rock crawlers)
C - Collembola (springtails)
C - Diplura (diplurans)
C - Protura (proturans)
C - Onychopora (velvet worms)
Description of Hymenoptera (sawflies, wasps, bees, ants)
Wasps are accomplished fliers in terms of mobility and highly adapted to suit a variety of lifestyles. Some species can be incredibly small and others are large and boldly coloured. Two kinds of habits exist - social wasps and loners. The other two main ways to group them, are those that are parasitic and those that build communal nests and go hunting.
Wasps actively use their venomous stings and can inflict ongoing stings to prey or to predators in defence. In terms of habitats, wasps exploit a wide variety of places such as heathlands, forests, urban areas and deserts. Each species has its own special lifestyle and its own key set of interactions with other species.
In the food chain, wasps are instrumental and play an amazingly diverse and functional role. Many wasps hunt insect larvae and play an important pest control service. Other wasps parasitise other insects and keep them under control by the wasp larvae feeding on the host.
Some wasp species even parasitise other parasite wasps. Certain wasp species also play a pollination service to orchids. On the other side, wasps are preyed upon by some spiders and ants. The wasp's defences can be overcome by some predators.
Bees are rather ordinary insects because they are so familiar in the harvesting of honey for human consumption. They are accomplished fliers for mobility and some bees are very fast and agile in the air. Bees come as social species and loners.
In terms of habitats, many bees live in small burrows and emerge to seek out flowers in surrounding forest, woodland, heathland or even deserts. Social bees choose crevices or hollows to build colonies and fan out into the surrounds to collect pollen.
In the food chain bees do not use their sting to go hunting but for defence. They are feeders of nectar and pollen and provide an instrumental service of cross-pollination to plants. A few species are parasitic on other bees.
On the other side of the food chain, bees can fall victim to spiders and birds.
Ants are very familiar and resemble the same basic body plan as bees and wasps except that they rarely have wings for mobility. By being restricted to the ground, ants have exploited a wide variety of land based ecosystem functions.
Some species are fairly solitary, at least in terms of their foraging, while others stay close to their own kind, going out in raiding or exploring parties. Most species have social nesting behaviour and a complex society with many individuals. In some cases a single colony can consist of over a million individuals. If an area of land has hundreds of large colonies, then the total number of ants is astronomical.
In terms of habitats, ants generally dominate on the ground, where they create nests below its surface. There are many other habitat choices which include plants, trees, under rocks and various suitable terrestrial environments.
In the food chain ants can be voracious predators but are commonly scavengers. When considering their enormous numbers, it appears that ants play a key role as undertakers in the terrestrial ecosystem, as well as insect control agents.
Ants also have other food chain relationships, such as with farming fungi and consuming plant material. Ants even have special relationships with other insects and protect them in exchange for nutritious secretions.
On the other side of the food chain, there are some specialist ant feeding animals, but on the whole, ants are well defended chemically and with stings. Few creatures can handle these dangers and probably only reduce a colony's population, but would hardly wipe it out.
Zborowski P. & Storey R., 'A Field Guide to Insects in Australia', page 179-198, Reed New Holland, 1998, Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia, ISBN: 1-87633-424-X
George C. McGavin, 'INSECTS Spiders and Other Terrestrial Arthropods', page 178-206, Dorling Kindersley, 2000, London England, ISBN: 0-7513-0772-6