Posts Tagged 'wasps'

The Mother of Her Country

In the garden at the Geo. Washington Birthplace Monument in Virginia, I was delighted to discover this queen Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamose).Here she shows how she gets that pollen on the top of her thorax.The workers of this species are more traditionally yellow and black, so this big orange queen must really stand out among them. But that’s not all. A “facultative temporary social parasite,” she may set up her own nest or, more likely, she will usurp a nest of Eastern Yellowjackets (Vespula maculifrons). She kills the host maculifrons queen and adopts or enslaves the workers, who then raise her squamose young. V. vidua and V. flavopilos have also been known to be parasitized in this way by these queens. As the host species ages out/dies off, the squamose take over the nest completely.

The species doesn’t seem to range up here to NYC, but it does extend as far south as Guatemala. In tropical climes — including Florida — the nests can be perennial, much larger, and have multiple queens. The species is vigorous in defense of their nests. They’re also carnivores, but the queens will take nectar.

Nestled Nests

It’s the time of year to spot the paper nests of Bald-faced Hornets. They usually build their nests in trees. Winter weather often destroys them and/or brings them down to the ground, like this one. But this one looks to be in excellent shape. However, it won’t be reused; the colony is gone, having only lived over the course of summer. Only the queen survives. She over-winters somewhere, perhaps behind the bark of a tree.But wait. Did you notice that hole in the glass behind the bars, visible in the first picture above? Mud-daubbing wasps have gotten in to build their nests of mud. These round holes are where the adult wasps dug their way out of their mud-encased cocoons, probably last August. This one, however, looks like it was never sealed off. Nor filled with spiders.

Revealed by The Fall

One day this summer I saw and heard several Baltimore Orioles around this linden. It was so thickly leafed I couldn’t see a nest, but it was pretty clear there was one in there.Woven from grasses and human garbage, suspended like a flapper’s purse. These things always surprise me because they seem so improbable as egg- and nestling-containers.A more “traditional” nest structure, seemingly never completed.Paper wasp nest, from the same tree, if I’m not mistaken, as last year. The queen, the only member of the hive to overwinter, didn’t stray far.
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While the Trump freakshow storms, kleptocrats destroy the state. An introduction to the destruction of government under Trump.

These Eyes

From a distance, I thought this was a wasp. Look at that patterning!But then, those eyes…This is a wasp-mimicking fly of the Spilomyia genus, perhaps S. longicornis.Now here’s a bee, one of the Agapostemon sweat bees. Note how the eyes are on the side of the animal. Flies have front-facing eyes that often meet near the middle. In this image you can also see the two pairs of wings that bees and the other Hymenoptera (wasps, reproductive ants) have. Flies, Diptera, have only two wings.

Three Wasps Walk Into A Bar…

I. Probably Common Thread-waisted Wasp, Ammophila procera, although the whole Ammophila genus sounds confusing for IDing via camera. So let’s enjoy that orange midriff.Members of the genus parasitize caterpillars and sawfly larvae for their young. A big, bold creature, spotted late last week supping the nectar of seaside goldenrod. Have been seeing these for a few weeks but this was the first time I could get a lens on one.With a sweat bee (Agapostemon) in the mix.II. Gold-marked Thread-waisted Wasp (Eremnophila aureonotata) nectaring on white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima). The gold marking, which is what “aureonotata,” means, seems to be the white gold on the sides of the thorax, seen below. I have a hard time picturing all the plumbing and wiring, as it were, going through that long narrow waist.The females make burrows that they provision with a single caterpillar. Like a lot of wasps, the adults are vegetarians. And note that there’s a dusting of pollen on underside of the body and legs.III. One of the Ichneumonidae family wasps. But which one? iNaturalist suggested a couple of Antipodian species, which was alarming… but a false alarming. Bugguide.net suggested Cryptanura septentrionalis, no common name, and this looks good for a match. That’s an ovipositor not a stinger. Since her antennae were moving so rapidly, it’s hard to see them, but they are very long, with some white in the middle of them. She was rapidly sense-feeling the oak bark’s crevasses, presumably for lunch or something to lay her eggs into. No luck in finding any natural history about this species, except that it’s one of two in the genus found north of Mexico. All of the bugguide.net examples are from southern states. On iNaturalist, my example is the furtherest north reported; next nearest is Washington DC.Though the holotype specimen, named in 1945, was collected in Cleveland in the 1930s, and Cleveland, to be fair, is slightly further north than the Bronx.

Blue-winged Wasp

Putting a little extra sting into your Sunday!

This handsome creature is a Blue-winged or Digger wasp (Scolia dubia). The paired yellow spots on the reddish orange abdomen are distinctive for identifying this species, at least around here (as far as I know).

“Life style”? They dig into the ground in search of larvae of June beetles and the invasive Japanese beetle. These are parasitized for the wasp’s young. Like a lot of our wasps, the adults themselves eat nectar.

This spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata) seems to do a great job of tagging pollinators with a load on pollen on the thorax. Bees and wasps really have to get underneath an overhanging petal to reach the nectar. I’ve never seen so many dusty wasps (at least three species) as I have on these flowers, which are among the plantings of the new Green-Wood native hillside. A very active little animal. Impossible to get a good full-on photo this time.

Wasp Tunnels

Of course, the giant wasps are going to get your attention, but the fresh dirt is also a good sign.I’ve seen Cicada Killer Wasps dig into the bare, hard-packed dirt of tree pits, but I’m guessing a gentle, grassy slope is more favorable.Sphecius speciosus excavate long tunnels, which they then provision with paralyzed cicadas. (How the hell do they get a cicada?) An egg is laid on the cicada; the wasp larva eats the cicada and pupates over winter. They’ll emerge next summer. Generations show site fidelity. This small bank in Green-Wood has been active for a couple of years at least. There’s a steeper slope in Prospect that has long been busy with these big wasps. Wherever you have cicadas, you’ll find these wasps, including in street pits and people’s gardens. (The Flatbush Gardener has five locations on his block, including his yard.)

This particular female seemed more territorial than usual. She got in our faces eight feet away from this hole. We moved along.


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