Why Are Wasps So Evil?
Who hasn’t had a picnic ruined
by angry, stinging wasps
coming out of nowhere, or
fled in terror when stumbling across
a hornet’s nest in a treehouse or toolshed?
Their vicious stings have earned
them a nasty reputation, but the evil of
wasps goes much deeper.
In the world of insects, known for
some pretty terrifying predators, wasps
are premier killers. Their sleek sportscar
exterior (often black and yellow)
belies a complex arsenal of anatomical,
physiological, and behavioral designs
to deal out death and destruction.
They won’t hesitate to kill their own
kind either, and their life cycle includes
larvae that eat creatures alive. Charles
Darwin observed some of these horrific
behaviors and asked himself a natural
question: How could such evil exist if a
good God created the world?
All in the Family
First, let’s define terms. We’re not
talking about just a few familiar species
commonly called wasps. A host of
nasty insects fits this category. They
belong in the large order Hymenoptera,
which also contains bees and
ants. We pretty much know an ant or
bee when we see one. Wasps, however,
are harder to define. In some ways,
they’re the “others” of the bunch.
The large stinging wasps we
encounter so often (hornets, paper
wasps, yellow jackets, and others) represent
only a small sliver of what entomologists
call “wasps.” Most are tiny
parasitoids, with tens of thousands of
species spread over 40 families. (Parasitoids
are like parasites in that they
feed in or on their host. The difference
is that they eventually kill their host.)
Because many of these are under a
half an inch long, they can’t successfully
sting humans (our skin is too
thick and their stingers too short). So
we don’t notice them.
“How nice; they can’t sting me,” we
might say. But they still display an
insidious lifestyle. Like their bigger
cousins, their gruesome behavior highlights
an evil that needs explanation.
What does evil, or more specifically
“natural evil,” mean? Evil in this sense
is not a willful, culpable disobedience
against God. Natural evil—in the
biological realm—refers to presentday
arsenals of living creatures that
are designed to deal out death and
destruction in a post-fall world.
The War for Reproductive Rights
Before we examine why wasps are so
evil, we need to recognize some of their
most shocking behaviors so we can
consider why they might exist today.
In our fallen world, creatures often
must compete to survive. “Natural evil”
includes behaviors to establish mating
rights and claim limited real estate so
animals can brood their young. Across
the animal kingdom, many such sparring
bouts occur so competitors can size
up who is the dominant dude. Wasps
take these battles to another level.
Death Match of the Fig Wasps
Take a fig wasp from the genus Pegoscapus
(family Agaonidae) for example.
Recently researchers observed that
adult females will fight other females
(a rarity in nature).
They mate inside the fig in which
they hatch, where they develop to
adulthood. Then they leave the fig and
squeeze into another immature fig (a
hollowish small capsule of tiny flowers)
to lay eggs. It’s not roomy enough
for more than one female’s brood. So if
other females enter, violence ensues.
Often heads roll . . . literally. The
winner gets the fig to herself. The
phrase “I don’t give a fig” does not at
all apply here!
The fig she lays her eggs in will
most likely be her grave. Her offspring
hatch, feed, pupate, and metamorphose
within the teensy flowers in this
tiny chamber. The young adult males
mate with the young females, then dig
out, blazing a trail through which the
females later escape. Upon exiting, the
females find another unripe fig to start
the cycle all over again.
The Zombie Master
seem pretty gruesome, but there are
thousands of species whose behavior
makes fig wasps look pretty tame. The
emerald jewel wasps (family Ampulicidae)
are a case in point. They are
known to attack cockroaches and temporarily
paralyze their front legs with
a well-delivered sting to a nerve network
in the thorax.
Once its target is subdued, the wasp
makes a more surgically precise sting
to the brain. This subdues the cockroach
so that it becomes a submissive
It gets worse (reader discretion
advised). The wasp cuts off most of the
roach’s antenna. The remaining stump
serves as a sippy straw for the wasp to
drink its blood to nourish itself. Snip
and sip, so to speak.
As a lamb to the slaughter, the wasp
guides the roach into a burrow, where
the wasp lays an egg on its victim. To
prevent the roach from wandering out
or predators from wandering in, the
wasp barricades the entrance with
debris. The egg hatches, and the larva
eats the roach alive. It starts with the
outside for several days and then feasts
on the innards in a careful way that
keeps it alive. The wasp larva pupates
(the pupa is the stage between larva
and adult) within the roach’s abdomen
and emerges as an adult wasp.
Some wasps lay eggs inside their
favorite caterpillar. When they hatch,
wasp larvae eat their way out and spin a
cocoon on their unfortunate host.
A Source of Darwin’s Doubt
It’s no wonder that little blighters
in the family Ichneumonidae (another
family loaded with parasitoids) contributed
to Charles Darwin’s loss of
belief in a loving, personal God. He reasoned
that a God who designed these
grisly life cycles couldn’t be all good.
Darwin didn’t want to conclude that
an all-powerful, holy God was ultimately
responsible for designing these
dastardly devils. This thinking motivated
him to find a completely naturalistic
explanation for all this carnage
and gore. This way he could impersonalize
that which he found repugnant.
A higher Being would not be to blame.
We, too, need to grapple with these
examples of natural evil, but not in the
same way Darwin did.
The True Origin of Evil
We need to be anchored in God’s
Word. On the one hand, we know that
God is completely good: “God is light,
and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John
1:5). On the other hand, there are thousands
of predators, parasitoids, parasites,
and pathogens (disease-causing
The answer is simple. “The whole creation
has been groaning together in the
pains of childbirth until now” (Romans
8:22). Adam’s sin had negative consequences
throughout the cosmos, including
all living creatures. This includes
thorns, thistles, violence, pain, suffering,
and the death of man and animals
(Genesis 3). His sin has plunged the
entire creation into our current state of
affairs. And we, his offspring, have contributed
to the mess ever since.
These horrendous life
cycles were not in existence
at the beginning. They are
part of God’s judgment.
In short, God is very good. Sin is very
bad. God’s judgment against our sin is
very good. These horrendous life cycles
were not in existence at the beginning.
They are part of God’s judgment. We
and all creatures were vegetarians at
first (Genesis 1:29–30), but then God
stepped in. Romans 8:20–21 says, “
the creation was subjected to futility,
not willingly, but because of him who
subjected it, in hope that the creation
itself will be set free from its bondage
to corruption and obtain the freedom
of the glory of the children of God.
Thankfully, this is short-term. God
uses evil as a warning and goad so that
we will turn from evil and trust in his
chosen Savior, Jesus Christ his Son.
Those who turn from evil and trust him
have a promise: “
He will wipe away” (Revelation 21:4).
every tear from their eyes, and death
shall be no more, neither shall there
be mourning, nor crying, nor pain
anymore, for the former things have
The gospel doesn’t only redeem humans.
God promises that he will transform
the entire creation so that all evil is
wiped out, including the wicked ways
In addition to nasty
stings, wasps have
that remind us how sin
has cursed our world.
Fig 1: Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis)
Spider wasps (family
Pompilidae) specialize in
hunting spiders. A well-aimed
sting under the
the spider. The wasp
then hauls the paralyzed
spider back to her
underground lair, where
she lays an egg on the
helpless spider. Her larva
hatches and consumes
the spider alive.
Fig 2: Braconid Wasp (Cotesia congregata)
Some wasp larvae exert
mind control over their
host caterpillar. The
deranged caterpillar does
not attempt to spin its
own cocoon. Instead,
when the wasp larvae
burrow out, the caterpillar
weaves a protective silken
blanket over the wasp
cocoons. Exhausted, half
consumed, and riddled
with holes from the larvae,
the caterpillar guards the
cocoons until it dies.
Fig 3: White Butterfly Parasite (Cotesia glomerata)
Many parasitoid wasps
prefer to lay their eggs
inside caterpillars. They
hatch into grub-like
larvae that consume the
caterpillar from the inside
out. At first, they avoid the
vital organs so they can
keep their host alive until
time to exit. When they are
ready to enter the pupal
stage, they chew their way
out of the caterpillar’s skin
and spin their own cocoon.
Fig 4: Chalcid Wasp (Lasiochalcidia igiliensis)
A parasitoid wasp in
the family Chalcididae
flies right into the
jaws of death, that is,
the pit of an antlion.
Her strong hind legs
hold the deadly jaws
open while she lays an
egg into the soft skin
of the antlion’s neck.
The larva hatches and
eats the antlion from
the inside out.
The Good Side of Bad
These behaviors sound nasty, and they are. But in our fallen world, the wasps actually serve
to limit pests. In fact, farmers view these parasitoid wasps as good girls. They sometimes release these wasps intentionally
to kill insect pests, a practice called biological control.
New Saint Andrews College, earned his PhD from George
Mason University in environmental science and public
policy. He holds a master of science degree in entomology
from the University of Idaho.
https://answersingenesis.org/creepy-crawlies/insects/why-are-wasps-so-evil/ This article originally appeared on answersingenesis.org