Chlorion aerarium,-right-side_2012-07-10-13.12.49-ZS-PMax

photo by Sam Droege on Flickr

Chlorion aerarium,-right-side_2012-07-10-13.12.49-ZS-PMax — Fotopedia
Chlorion aerarium, Cumberland, Maryland, July 2012
Wikipedia Article
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The Sphecidae are a cosmopolitan family of wasps that includes digger wasps, mud daubers, and other familiar types that all fall under the category of thread-waisted wasps. Both of the traditional definitions of the Sphecidae (the conservative one, where all the sphecoid wasps other than ampulicids and heterogynaids were in a single large family, and the more refined one, where the seven large sphecid subfamilies were each elevated to family rank) have recently been shown to be paraphyletic, and the most recent classification is closer to the conservative scheme; the families Heterogynaidae and Ampulicidae are the sister taxa to what are now two families (instead of one), the Sphecidae and Crabronidae. Thus, the bulk of the sphecoid wasps are now placed in Crabronidae, and the Sphecidae per se are much more restricted in concept, equivalent to what used to be the subfamily Sphecinae.

The biology of the Sphecidae, even under the restricted definition, is still fairly diverse; some sceliphrines even display rudimentary forms of sociality, and some sphecines rear multiple larvae in a single large brood cell. Many nest in pre-existing cavities, or dig simple burrows in the soil, but some species construct free-standing nests of mud and even (in one genus) resin. All are predatory, but the type of prey ranges from spiders to various dictyopterans or orthopteroids to caterpillars (of either Lepidoptera or other Hymenoptera); the vast majority practice mass provisioning, providing all the prey items prior to laying the egg.

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Animal coloration

Animal coloration is the general appearance of an animal resulting from the reflection or emission of light from its surfaces. Some animals are brightly coloured, while others are hard to see. In some species, such as the peacock, the male has strong patterns, conspicuous colours and is iridescent, while the female is far less visible.

There are several separate reasons why animals have evolved colours. Camouflage enables an animal to remain hidden from view. Signalling enables an animal to communicate information such as warning of its ability to defend itself (aposematism). Animals also use colour in advertising, signalling services such as cleaning to animals of other species; to signal sexual status to other members of the same species; and in mimicry, taking advantage of another species' warning coloration. Some animals use colour to divert attacks by startle (deimatic behaviour), surprising a predator e.g. with eyespots or other flashes of colour, and possibly by motion dazzle, confusing a predator's attack by moving a bold pattern (such as zebra stripes) rapidly. Some animals are coloured for physical protection, such as having pigments in the skin to protect against sunburn, while some frogs can lighten or darken their skin for temperature regulation. Finally, animals can be coloured incidentally. For example, blood is red because the haem pigment needed to carry oxygen is red. Animals coloured in these ways can have striking natural patterns.

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Insects (from Latin insectum, a calque of Greek ἔντομον [éntomon], "cut into sections") are a class of invertebrates within the arthropod phylum that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and one pair of antennae. They are among the most diverse groups of animals on the planet, including more than a million described species and representing more than half of all known living organisms. The number of extant species is estimated at between six and ten million, and potentially represent over 90% of the differing animal life forms on Earth. Insects may be found in nearly all environments, although only a small number of species reside in the oceans, a habitat dominated by another arthropod group, crustaceans.

The life cycles of insects vary but most insects hatch from eggs. Insect growth is constrained by the inelastic exoskeleton and development involves a series of molts. The immature stages can differ from the adults in structure, habit and habitat, and can include a passive pupal stage in those groups that undergo complete metamorphosis. Insects that undergo incomplete metamorphosis lack a pupal stage and adults develop through a series of nymphal stages. The higher level relationship of the hexapoda is unclear. Fossilized insects of enormous size have been found from the Paleozoic Era, including giant dragonflies with wingspans of 55 to 70 cm (22–28 in). The most diverse insect groups appear to have coevolved with flowering plants.

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The Hymenoptera are one of the largest orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. Over 150,000 species are recognized, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the wings of the insects, and is derived from the Ancient Greek ὑμήν (hymen): membrane and πτερόν (pteron): wing. The hind wings are connected to the fore wings by a series of hooks called hamuli.

Females typically have a special ovipositor for inserting eggs into hosts or otherwise inaccessible places. The ovipositor is often modified into a stinger. The young develop through holometabolism, (complete metamorphosis) — that is, they have a worm-like larval stage and an inactive pupal stage before they mature.