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Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Ecdysozoa
Cladus: Panarthropoda
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Classis: Insecta
Cladus: Dicondylia
Subclassis: Pterygota
Cladus: Metapterygota
Infraclassis: Neoptera
Cladus: Eumetabola
Cladus: Endopterygota
Superordo: Hymenopterida
Ordo: Hymenoptera
Subordo: Apocrita
Superfamilia: Vespoidea

Familia: Vespidae
Subfamilia: Polistinae
Tribus: Epiponini
Genus: Synoeca
Species (6): S. chalybea – S. cyanea – S. ilheensis – S. septentrionalis – S. surinama – S. virginea

[Source: Catalogue of Life: 2013 Annual Checklist]

Synoeca de Saussure, 1852

Primary references

Saussure 1852: Ann. Soc. ent. France, (2) 10, 551.


Carpenter, J.M. et al. 2013: Well, what about intraspecific variation? Taxonomic and phylogenetic characters in the genus Synoeca de Saussure (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Zootaxa 3682(3): 421–431. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.3682.3.3 Reference page.
Cely, C.C.; Sarmiento, C.E. 2011: What about intraspecific variation? Reassessment of taxonomic and phylogenetic characters in the genus Synoeca de Saussure (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Polistinae). Zootaxa 2899: 43–59. Preview Reference page.
Lopes, R.B. & Menezes, R.S.T. 2017. Synoeca ilheensis sp. nov., a new social wasp (Hymenoptera, Vespidae, Polistinae) from Brazilian lowland Atlantic Forest. Zootaxa 4300(3): 445–450. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4300.3.8. Reference page.

Synoeca is a genus of eusocial paper wasps found in the tropical forests of the Americas. Commonly known as warrior wasps or drumming wasps, they are known for their aggressive behavior, a threat display consisting of multiple insects guarding a nest beating their wings[2] in a synchronized fashion, and an extremely painful sting. The sting is barbed and if used often kills the wasp,[3] which may be the reason why such a striking defensive display is used. This display escalates from drumming inside the nest to hundreds of wasps moving on to the envelope of the nest and of continuing to drum and only if this does not deter the threat do the wasps begin to sting.[2]

Distribution and habitat

The genus has a wide range within the Americas, with specimens being found in the tropical and subtropical portions thereof. S. septentrionalis is generally found in the northern part of the range, having been observed as far north as Mexico, throughout Central America and northern South America.[4] A very similar species, S. ilheensis, extends into Brazil and, until 2017, was reported as a southern population of S. septentrionalis.[5][6] The other species in the genus are predominantly found in South America, as far south as Argentina.[4]

Synoeca thrives in tropical rainforests, building arboreal nests in trees, typically on the underside of major branches. A single comb is built directly on the tree trunk; and the nests have a characteristic shape which resembles an armadillo, leading to common vernacular names such as marimbondo-tatu or armadillo wasp.[5] These wasps swarm to form new colonies, a single queen leaves the nest accompanied by some workers to a new nest site. The queen uses pheromones to suppress the reproductive behaviour of the workers. When one queen dies she is replaced by another; colonies may last up to 16 years.[2]


Synoeca cyanea Fabricius, 1775
Synoeca chalibea de Saussure, 1852 (often misspelled as chalybea)
Synoeca ilheensis Lopes & Menezes, 2017[6]
Synoeca septentrionalis Richards 1978
Synoeca surinama Linnaeus 1767
Synoeca virginea Fabricius, 1804

Human importance

Entomologist Justin Schmidt has ranked the sting of the species S. septentrionalis as a 4 on his Schmidt sting pain index and has described it as "torture. You are chained in the flow of an active volcano." This is the highest ranking in his index and also includes the bullet ant and a species of tarantula hawk in the genus Pepsis.[7]

A research team in Brazil has discovered that Synoeca stings contain a newly discovered compound that could be used to treat anxiety, apparently working as effectively as diazepam when tested on rats.[8]

O.W. Richards (1978). The social wasps of the Americas excluding the Vespinae. The British Museum Natural History. p. 178. ISBN 0565007858.
Hogue, Charles Leonard (1993). Latin American Insects and Entomology. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07849-7.
Hermann, Henry (1971). "Sting Autotomy, a defensive mechanism in certain social Hymenoptera". Insectes Sociaux. 18 (2): 111–120. doi:10.1007/bf02223116. S2CID 42293043.
Andena, Sergio R.; Carpenter, James M.; Noll, Fernando B. (2009). "A phylogenetic analysis of Synoeca De Saussure, 1852, a neotropical genus of social wasps (hymenoptera: vespidae: epiponini)". Entomologica Americana. 115 (1): 81–89. doi:10.1664/07-ra-002r.1. S2CID 85860442.
Rodolpho S. T. Menezes; Sergio R. Andena; Antonio F. Carvalho; Marco A. Costa (2011). "First records of Synoeca septentrionalis Richards, 1978 (Hymenoptera, Vespidae, Epiponini) in the Brazilian Atlantic Rain Forest". ZooKeys (151): 75–78. doi:10.3897/zookeys.151.1882. PMC 3286226. PMID 22368453.
Rogério B.Lopes; Rodolpho S.T. Menezes (2017). "Synoeca ilheensis sp. nov., a new social wasp (Hymenoptera, Vespidae, Polistinae) from Brazilian lowland Atlantic Forest (abstract)". Zootaxa. 4300 (3): 445. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4300.3.8.
Schmidt, Justin O.; Blum, Murray S.; Overal, William L. (1983). "Hemolytic activities of stinging insect venoms". Archives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology. 1 (2): 155–160. doi:10.1002/arch.940010205.
Greta Friar (4 November 2016). "The Venom of This Dangerous Wasp Could Someday Help Treat Anxiety". Nova Next. WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved 25 November 2016.

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