Wasp, or Vespa, L. a genus of insects comprising 139 species, three of which only are natives of-Britain.
1. The Crabro. See Hornet.
2. The Vulgaris, or Common-Wasp, is from half to three quarters of an inch in length : it is divided into three classes; namely, the queens, or females, which are furnished with stings, and are much larger than any other wasp, on account of the numerous eggs they contain. The mules are less than the queens, and are not provided with stings : the number of these two classes is nearly equal in a nest, amounting in general to 200 or 300. The mules arc principally employed in constructing the nests, and in providing the other wasps and the young insects with food : like the females, they are furnished with long stings.
The common wasps build their nests in the ground, where the females deposit their eggs singly : these are hatched in the spring ; and, in the course of three weeks, the young inserts pass through the different states of larvae or grubs, and of chrysalids; when they become perfect wasps. The mules come first into existence; immediately enlarge the hole; and form the nest with fibres of wood, leaves, etc.; they feed the young males and females (more judiciously than some human parents) adapting the quantity and nature of such provision to the weakness of their Stomachs. This food consists, first of the juices extracted from fruits and meat, but afterwards of the bodies of insects. As soon as each wasp acquires sufficient strength, it flies into the fields, and gardens, where the fruit is plundered, and bees are killed, with the view of obtaining their honey. Similar depredation's are committed through-Out the summer; but, in the month of October, when their supply begins to diminish, the males and mules attack the newly-hatched insects of their own species, and destroy them, together, with the larvae, chrysalids, and eggs; they then fall upon one another, till the frost and rain exterminate nearly the whole, excepting a few females ; which, in the ensuing spring lay new eggs, and thus become the parents of a numerous progeny ; as a nest of wasps, towards autumn, consists of from 14 to 15, 000 cells.
3. The coarctata, or Small Wasp, is about half an inch long : it is hatched like the preceding species, with which its habits also correspond. The nests of the Small Wasps are constructed of woody fibres, reduced to a fine substance resembling paper : they are of an oval form ; being suspended from the branches of trees; and covered with a kind of varnish, that renders them impenetrable to water.
Wasps are not only destructive to grapes, peaches, and the more delicate kinds of fruit, but also to bees; the hives of which they attack and plunder, frequently compelling those industrious insects to change their habitation. To prevent such depredations, Mr. FoR-syth recommends several phials, or small bottles, to be prepared, towards the time when the wasps appear. These Vessels are to be fillet, half or three parts full, with a mixture consisting of the lees of beer or wine, and the sweepings of sugar, or the dregs of molasses : next, they must be suspended by yellow pack-thread, on nails driven into different parts of garden-walls, so as to reach nearly the bottom. When the bottles are filled with insects, the liquor must be poured into another vessel, and the wasps crushed on the ground. - Should the weather prove very hot, so that these marauders become very numerous, and will not enter the glasses exposed for their reception, Mr. F. directs them to be touched on the back with a little oil, when they will instantly fall down; their bodies acquiring a black or green colour; and, the lateral pores through which they breathe, being closed up by the oil, they consequently perish.
As the proper remedies for procuring relief in the painful sensation arising from the sting of these insects, are similar to those employed for the Sting of Bees, we refer the reader to vol. i. pp.231-32. If, however, any wasps be accidentally swallowed in beer, or other liquor, a small portion of honey, vinegar, and sweet-oil, may be mixed together ; a tea-spoonful of which should be frequently taken; till the pain and inflammation abate. The efficacy of this remedy has been fully proved by experience.
Wasp. - If any of these insects be accidentally taken in beer, or other liquor, the fatal consequences, resulting from their stints, may be obviated by swallowing a little common salt. Tims, one of our correspondents is acquainted with a recent instance, in which a life was saved by adopting this simple remedy; and he has experienced the efficacy of salt applied externally, as a cure tor the stings of wasps, in his own family, for several years. - See also the article BeE., p. 397, Suppl.