By Alex Wiggan (Ryan the work experience lad and R.Y.A.N II)
Hello there dear readers, welcome back to The Science Of Superheroes: Science Goes Wild, this week we’re looking at wasps and of course that also means looking at the Marvel Comics character the Wasp! We’ve tracked down a wasp nest outside Salford Lads Club and we plan to stay here long enough to update you on wasps! Once again Ryan is posing the questions, I’m answering them and R.Y.A.N II is on hand to use his big super-computer brain to give us information that no one else is even capable of. So here we go again...
WHO IS THE WASP?
The Wasp is the Marvel Comics super heroine created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963. She first appeared in Tales to Astonish #44, a mere nine issues after Ant-Man made his debut!
IS SHE AN ACTUAL WASP?
Technically no, however the Wasp aka Janet Van Dyne did undergo a few body modifications so that she was very wasp-like. Janet’s boyfriend, who later became her husband Hank Pym, (who we discussed in chapter one) gave Janet access to his Pym Particles allowing her to reduce her size. Pym also altered her biochemistry (that’s a proper science term don’t ya know) so that she could sprout wings, allowing her to fly and she could also produce bio-electric blasts of energy which were her equivalent of ‘wasp stings’. As well as all that, just like Ant-Man, the Wasp has increased strength once she has reduced her size and she can also control insects, thanks to a handy set of antennae that she can whip out at will!
OH, SO TELL ME... WHAT MAKES JANET WANT TO BE A WASP?
Well wasps are pretty cool. As mentioned in the first chapter concerning Ant-Man, wasps are related to ants and that means they have exoskeletons, six legs and wings. They also work together in colonies, made up of a queen, female workers and male drones, although these colonies only last about a year on average. Wasps prey upon practically all species of pest insects; so in terms of what they do for the environment, they are extremely important for keeping down the number of pests (I wonder if they can deal with nuisance phone calls as well?). There are over 100,000 species of wasp...
ARE YOU SHITTING ME?
No. No, I am not; there really are over 100,000 species of wasp and the ones that residents of the UK will be familiar with are the European wasps, which are black and yellow in colour and belong to the Vespidae family of wasps. Now there are different types of wasp and this comes down to how they use their ovipositor! Now the ovipositor is an organ that hangs out of the arse end of the wasp, which you’ll generally know as the part of the wasp that produces the sting. Wasps that produce the sting belong to the group Aculeata, which basically means the ovipositor has been modified into a venom producing stinger, however other wasps use the ovipositor as an egg laying organ. Oh and they don’t just lay their eggs anywhere, because wasps are parasites, so they find hosts and then lay their eggs in them! It sounds pretty icky and it is, especially for spiders, as they’re where wasps tend to lay their eggs the most, but it’s things like this that make Janet think that wasps are pretty darn special.
YES IT DOES MAKE THEM SEEM QUITE THE BEES KNEES....BUT WHAT ELSE MAKES WASPS SO SPECIAL?
Oh well, how about the fact that wasps have control over the sex of their own offspring?!
WHAT?! HOW DO THEY DO THAT?
Well, during the process of egg laying wasps store sperm in their bodies and then they release it when they release each individual egg. If they decide to produce a male egg then they simply lay the egg without fertilising it and if they want female eggs, then they fertilise them!
HMMM... THAT’S AMAZING! IT’S NOT SURPRISING THAT JANET VAN DYNE BECAME THE WASP, BUT HOW ALIKE ARE THEY?
Well both have wings which help them fly and both have the ability to produce a sting as a defence mechanism. Where they differ however is that Janet doesn’t prey upon insects (or her fellow human beings) and she certainly doesn’t have control over her own offspring. Well, not without medical intervention at least. This basically means that wasps are pretty tough little buggers and if they were the size of a human, with their exoskeletons they’d be physically strong as well. Although both wasps and the Wasp work as part of a team (a colony and the Avengers respectively) so they’re never truly alone, it seems fair to say that wasps have the edge over the Wasp when it comes to who is stronger. Of course as this is a scientific study we should really ask R.Y.A.N II for the ultimate analysis of the subjects.
SO R.Y.A.N II, IS THE WASP MORE POWERFUL THAN A WASP?
R.Y.A.N II SCIENTIFIC READOUT: No.
Thanks for another great answer there R.Y.A.N II... in no way do I feel ripped off that I spent so much money funding your development! Right, I’m off to hunt for the instruction manual for R.Y.A.N II, so remember to come back as next time we tackle... the Human Fly!