Are Ants Related to Wasps?

Ants evolved millions of years ago and are still evolving to adapt to the changing environment, as scientists have found a social supergene in one species.

Are Ants Related to Wasps? Ants are related to wasps as they belong to the same order, Hymenoptera, and are supposed to be evolved from wasps. Moreover, they share many similarities in physical features and behavioral characteristics, and velvet ants are wingless wasps. Furthermore, ants have adapted to the environment and brought changes in their features, and bees are known to be more closely related to ants.

Ants have two antennae, like bees and wasps, but their antennae bend at a right angle, unlike the members of the Apoidea superfamily.

In addition, their abdomens are rounded at the end, unlike wasps that have pointed abdomens, so it shows slight modifications in the evolved species of insects.

How are ants related to wasps?

Ants are found to be the relatives of wasps belonging to Apoidea, a superfamily that consists of bees and hunting wasps.

A few physical and behavioral characteristics make them similar, and ants actually evolved from these insects.

Physical similarities

Many people relate ants to wasps due to similarities in their physical appearance, as both have the same body structure, including the head, thorax, and abdomen.

Both of these insects have a constricted petiole region between the thorax and abdomen, but ants have two constrictions that make their waist look thin.

In addition, both of them have three pairs of legs that are attached to the thorax region. They have two wings on their thorax regions that help them fly higher in the air.

Moreover, they have chewing mouthparts and powerful mandibles, allowing them to chew through hard surfaces like the wooden long of a diseased tree.

They have two compound eyes and two antennae on their head, improving their visibility and detection power.

However, they have evolved and brought a few changes in their structure as their antennae are elbowed and have rounded abdominal tips.

Both organisms have a stinger at the end of their abdomen, but their length is 1 to 2 mm in ants, while wasps have a 2 to 3 mm long stinger.

Evolution from wasps

Ants evolved from hunting wasps as their physical characteristics, and genetic makeup is similar to their ancestors to some extent, as they share the same taxonomic order.

You can look at their hierarchy to get an idea that these insects belong to the same kingdom Animalia and the same order Hymenoptera.

Moreover, they are related to a subfamily Apocrita, having bees and wasps, with slight variations in their features and habitat.

The Family Formicidae contain species of insects that are known to be evolved from stinging wasps and are considered to be their sister group.

Furthermore, these insects are around 150 million years old and have been living on this planet for a long time. Wasps are considered as ancestors of ants, mainly mud dauber wasps.

Their fossils were compared with other living insects to know about their ancestors, and they are found to be the closest relatives of particular groups of wasps and bees.

In addition, they have stinging abilities and release eggs on their prey like their ancestors.

After analyzing their genomic data through DNA sequencing tools, researchers have agreed on the fact these are cousins of bees and stinging insects.

Wingless velvet ants

One of the prominent reasons behind considering wasps as ancestors of ants are Velvet ants that are stinging wasps or their ancestors.

Their bodies look like typical wingless workers, but their body color is much similar to their ancestors. They have stripped bodies in black and orange or yellowish color.

This cow killer ant is native to the US and is a parasitoid wasp species mistakenly considered a Formicidae family member.

Moreover, their bite is as deadly as a paper wasp and can cause a painful sensation after injecting a stinger deep into the skin.

Velvet ants are known as cow killer wasps as their stings are deadly that can even kill a cow as it cannot tolerate the pain.

In addition, these are only looking like ants, but they are not insects like ants in real as they are wingless wasps and are named so according to their hairy appearance.

So, these velvet ants are the main reason behind this concept that they are closely related to wasps, but only species having similar looks are wingless.

Behavioral similarities

Ants and wasps behave in the same manner as their social behavior in colonies, and collective nesting habitats confirm their relatedness.

They can also form colonies based on hundreds and thousands of members that collaborate to ensure their survival, like an ant colony.

Some of their species like to live in separate territories, while many prefer to interact socially and live together.

Moreover, their queen and queen in an ant colony perform the same function of laying eggs and are usually bigger than other members.

Their way of interacting and behaving in the environment is quite similar; that’s why they are thought to be related closely.

A few of their species are aggressive, like wasps, when they feel a threat at a close distance and begin to move around on the ground as they cannot fly like their ancestors.

These ancestors of ants also form nests in the walls and trees and prefer to live in narrow spaces. You can find pipe-like nests in the walls formed by the mud dauber wasps.

All the species belonging to Hymenoptera are good at dispersing seeds and are ecologically important as they play a role in the pollination of flowers.

Their colonies have divided tasks of foraging, collecting, and feeding food in addition to reproduction and protection, as every member knows about its role.

How are ants and bees related?

Ants and bees are closely related to each other than wasps as they are genetically similar.

Researchers have studied insects belonging to Hymenoptera order to know about their evolutionary relationships and social interactions.

It is found that parasitoid wasps are distant relatives of ants, but bees are their close relatives.

All of these insects belonging to Formicidae and Apoidea are related to each other and evolved over time as their members belong to sister groups.

Bees have wings and are efficient in flying, unlike ants, but their body structure and other physical features are similar to these insects.

So, these crawling insects are close cousins as they belong to a superfamily Apoidea and show similarities in their behavioral characteristics in addition to physical ones to a large extent.

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