Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the world's largest collection of wasp nests with James M. Carpenter, entomologist and curator in the Museum's Division of Invertebrate Zoology. The Museum's Hymenoptera collection includes more than 1,200 paper nests made by social wasps, as well as the 7.5 million-specimen gall wasp collection donated to the Museum in 1958 by the widow of Alfred C. Kinsey.
The primary focus of Dr. Carpenter's work is the wasp family Vespidae, a group of nearly 5,000 described species that encompasses the most sophisticated societies among the social wasps, i.e., ones that build large, communal nests. (Gall wasps, by contrast, are solitary; they lay their eggs, fly away, and never have contact with their offspring again.) Carpenter's special concentration is on the commonly known yellowjackets and hornets.
The Hymenoptera are a large order of insects that includes bees, wasps and ants. The group features more than 115,000 described species, as much as 10% of the described species diversity of the planet. Economically and ecologically, Hymenoptera are one of the most important groups of taxa.