"Let me tell you son, when you hear that sound, you've got three seconds to grab your lasgun and then they’re on you."
- — Corporal Hahnsen of the 45th Scintilla Guard
The Vespid Stingwings are Vespid auxiliary troops that serve alongside their Fire Caste and Kroot allies in the military forces of the T'au Empire in pursuit of the Greater Good. The Vespid provide auxiliary troops to T'au armies, who value them for their skill at negotiating dangerous ground at high speed.
Stingwings make ideal mobile reserve or flanking troops, though the T'au rely on the technology known as a Communion Helm that is issued to the Strain Leaders to communicate with the Stingwings and coordinate their actions.
The Stingwings hail from the storm-wracked, high-pressure world of Vespid where they evolved amidst drifting, lighter-than-air rock islands. Each island is an independent nation with its own leadership and traits. Upon first contact with the T'au, the Stingwings displayed no hesitation in joining the T'au Empire and now fight in T'au armies where they are afforded an uncommon respect by the warriors of the Fire Caste.
There are a number of characteristics that make the Stingwings extremely valuable to the T'au, mainly due to the way that they were well-equipped to prosper in their homeworld's harsh and lethal atmosphere. The first factor is the Stingwings' weaponry. Each Stingwing carries a Neutron Blaster fitted with a crystal harvested from the deepest reaches of Vespid's cloud seas. The weapon was designed by the T'au Earth Caste and is capable of emitting a short-ranged but deadly stream of radiation that will ignore all but the most sturdy of armour and reduce biological matter or delicate machine components to cinders.
The second advantage is their wings,which makes them one of the few sentient species encountered in the galaxy capable of unpowered flight; a Vespid can weave in and out of cover to close in on their foe. Those few warriors who have survived a Stingwing attack state that they appear from nowhere, darting out of concealment to unleash a devastating burst of neutron fire. These two features combine to dictate the most common tactic used by the Stingwings. The T'au frequently direct their allies to attack through dense terrain -- the type of ground from which the enemy would scarcely expect the T'au themselves to approach. It often comes as an unpleasant surprise to the enemy when he discovers the flank he thought was anchored by dense terrain has in fact been infiltrated by fast-moving aliens.
The T'au, specialising as they do in combined arms warfare, launch mechanised and Battlesuit attacks at key enemy points, timed to strike at the exact moment the Stingwings assault. The Stingwings are often integrated into T'au Hunter Cadres that are configured as fast-moving, highly mobile forces, where they act as scouts alongside infiltrating Pathfinder Teams. Vespid have also been deployed as reserves for Cadres possessed of a high number of Crisis Teams, their speed and maneuverability allowing them to respond to orders and react to threats with astonishing speed. It is a great compliment to the Vespid as a species that the Fire Caste regards the Vespid Stingwings as skillful and reliable allies, an honour yet to be paid to the mercenary Kroot of Pech.
To date, the T'au Empire has fielded Vespid Stingwings in a number of campaigns against the Imperium of Man where they have gained a terrifying reputation and are already subject to a number of battlefield myths. One early account that was believed by many was that the Vespid were prone to consume their fallen. This tale was taken as canon by many in the Imperium's upper command echelons, but is now believed to have been a simple case of misidentification between the Stingwings and the more barbaric Kroot. The name "Stingwing" was in fact an appellation coined by the Imperial Guardsmen of the 15th/11th Army Group that was posted to defend the Imperial frontier worlds bordering the northern marches of the T'au Empire. The name is entirely appropriate to the aliens' style of attack and they are feared by almost every sentient race that has faced them in the field.
- Antennae - A Vespid's antennae control minor olfactory nerves. Like a Terran insect, a Vespid "smells" with its antennae. It is also of note that Vespid have no visible auditory receptors.
- Mesoplarum Armour - A Vespid wears armour into combat to protect key body parts, including major internal organs and the frontal portions of their limbs. This armour is made of a material known as Mesoplarum, and is of T'au manufacture. Mesoplarum is a similar composite material to that worn in the armour of T'au Fire Warrior infantry and the Vespid are believed to be capable of manufacturing this material in their own production facilities, and may now be doing so in large quantities.
- Communion Helm - The Communion Helm worn by senior Stingwing officers, or Strain Leaders, appear to facilitate communication between the T'au and the Vespid, whose mindsets and cultures are very different. Without the Strain Leader to convey T'au instructions, the remaining Stingwings will likely become disoriented and unable to coordinate their actions with those of their allies.
- Oceli - Adult Stingwings have three pairs of "eyes" known as oceli. The uppermost pair is believed to see in the ultraviolet spectrum, the middle in the spectrum of visible light and the lowest in infrared.
- Triple-Segment Armoured Tarsus/Claw - The Stingwings' diamond hard claws allowed them in ancient times to excavate tunnels in the rock of their drifting islands on Vespid, though mechanical devices now perform this function. These claws can also be used to devastating effect in melee combat, where they can rend and tear armour from their foes.
- Vestigial Sternite/Armoured Tergite - All Vespid have a vestigial stinger. No post-battle reports exist to indicate this has ever been used as an offensive weapon, despite inital rumours to the contrary.
- Wings - Vespid wings allow them to fly and make them nimble when moving on the ground. They consist of membranes covered in sclerotised veins that are protected by an armoured, exoskeletal shell like that of a Terran beetle when closed.
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pg. 16
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pp. 26-27
- White Dwarf 316 (AUS), "Index Xenos - The Vespid"
- Fire & Honor (Graphic Novel) by Graham McNeill, illustrated by Tony Parker