Not More Wasps?!

European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula. Note the diagnostic orange antennas. It may look like a Vespula ground yellowjacket in its black and yellow finery, but these antenna instantly mark if off as something else.

As its common name suggests, this is an introduced-to-North-America species. What comes as some surprise to me is that they only started being seen in the late 1970s. They’re all over on both coasts now, and spreading across the in-between. They’re ubiquitous here. They hunt all sorts of insects. I’ve seen them tackle large caterpillars and munch away at the brains of Monarch butterflies.

I learned the surprising date of introduction in Heather Holm’s new guide to the wasps of eastern North America. It is a large book, as big as many NYC apartments, but its coverage of some 150 species is very helpful indeed. (Holm has been quite active on iNaturalist as an identifier, for which I am particularly thankful.) Glad to have gotten my hands on it. Now, where will it go?

Got to confirm that this is a Hump-backed Beewolf. Philanthus gibbosus hunts ground-nesting bees to provision her own ground nest. This one is slurping away at some American Pokeberry, btw. This is a rather small predatory wasp, but then plenty of ground nesting bees are rather smaller than the ubiquitous honeybee.

A little different, on the same plant. This is, I think, a Smoky-winged Beetle Bandit Wasp, Cerceris fumipennis. (Some of these common names are exhausting…). Even with a guide, it can sometimes to be hard to be exact on all the species. The Smoky-winged, at any rate, preys on metallic wood-boring beetle species. This includes the Emerald Ash Borer, so researchers tracking its destructive expansion use these wasps as scouts.

On Sundays, the WASP-in-everything but hereditary wealth and religious affiliation comes looking for donations to the larder to help support this blog. Thank you!.

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