Brachygastra mellifica, commonly known as the Mexican Honey Wasp, is a small Neotropical paper wasp that is distributed from southern Texas and extreme southeastern Arizona in the United States south through Mexico and Central America. The specific name means "honey-making," and this species is well known as one of the very few insects other than bees to produce and store honey. It is a dark wasp with some yellow bands on the abdomen, and very fine, slightly shining golden-brown pubescence on the body.
The nests are constructed out of paper, placed among the branches of trees and shrubs, and measure 40–50 cm (1.3–1.6 ft) in diameter when mature, with 10 or more layers of horizontal honeycombed cells within the outer envelope. Many of the empty cells on the periphery of the nest are used to store honey that the wasps produce by concentrating nectar, in much the same fashion as the familiar honey bees. The honey is fed to the wasp larvae, and is their primary, if not sole, food source (adults have been observed capturing insect prey, which is typical behavior for paper wasps). Nests are founded by swarms, also somewhat similar to honey bees, but the swarms contain multiple queens, as do the mature nests. There can be several thousand workers in a mature nest, and workers are somewhat aggressive; the sting is barbed, yet another feature convergent with honey bees.
The honey produced by these wasps is consumed by humans, though the nectar from certain common plants (e.g., Datura) can result in the honey being toxic.
- Sudgen, Evan A.; R. Lowrey McAllen (1994). "Observations on foraging, population and nest biology of the Mexican honey wasp, Brachygastra mellifica (Say) in Texas [Vespidae: Polybiinae]". Journal of Kansas Entomological Society 67 (2): 141–155. JSTOR 25085503.
- Quinn, Mike (2008-12-05). "Mexican Honey Wasp Brachygastra mellifica (Say, 1837)". Texas Entomology. Retrieved 2010-06-02.
- Hogue, C. (1993) Latin American Insects and Entomology. University of California Press, Berkeley, 594 pp.
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