Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blue-Winged Wasp


This pretty little wasp is called a Blue-Winged Wasp (Scolia dubia). They are found in gardens, backyards, meadows, prairies, and along roadsides all throughout the Eastern United States  and in California. Identifying these wasps is easy, they have blue wings like their names suggests, but one key characteristic that makes it impossible to mistake them for any other species are those yellow patches at the top of the orange segment of their abdomen. Blue-Winged wasps are relatively small at about one inch or in some cases less. The adults nectar at flowers, like the one pictured here who took a liking to some Sedum that was in full bloom. Mating occurs late in the spring, and they engage in an elaborate mating dance. They will fly low to the ground in a figure 8 or "S" pattern. This is repeated numerous times, until mating finally occurs. Once mated, the female will dig a burrow into the ground and provision it with the grub of a Green June Beetle or Japanese Beetle. She does this by detecting the grub underground, digging down until she locates it and then stings it to paralyze it. Once paralyzed she will carry it back to the lair, and deposit an egg on it. When the egg hatches, the young larvae will begin feeding on the grub, which is very much alive, it just cannot move. Once the larvae reaches its full size it will pupate in a cocoon of sorts that it constructs out of the body of the grub. The wasp will overwinter in this stage and emerge the following spring. These wasps are hugely beneficial because of their preference for using June Beetle and Japanese Beetle grubs to feed their offspring. They help keep these harmful insects in check. In large numbers these wasps can be intimidating, much like any stinging insect in large groups. This species is calm and almost completely harmless. The only way you are likely to get stung is if you antagonize it. The draw back to having these wasps in large numbers, is that it could indicate you have an overpopulation of beetle grubs. They are a very attractive wasp and should be encouraged in the garden for the services they provide.

8 comments:

  1. Just thought you would like to know that many of my 8th grade computer class students have been most impressed by your blog. I've been teaching them how to set up and use Google Reader this week and they are absolutely amazed that you 1)know so much about so many different "bugs" and 2)do your own beautiful photography. You have some new young subscribers in Ohio!

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  2. Thank you so much for letting me know. Be sure to tell your students I do special requests. If there is a particular insect they are interested in or curious about let me know and I will do my best to post about it. I am so excited to learn that my blog is reaching so many people, most especially students. After all they are our future, lets keep em interested in the outdoors! I hope to hear from your students in the comments section. I look forward to their feedback.

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  3. I will be sure to tell my kids that you take special requests. I haven't started them on posting comments yet because I wanted them get familiar with the blog world first. We'll begin commenting soon. In fact, your blog will be one of the first examples I'll use because I know you will respond and that will give them much needed encouragement. Many of my kids are avid outdoors people, so get ready! Thanks for caring about kids!

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  4. I am looking forward to hearing from your students. I can't wait to see what they throw at me. No Thanks are needed, kids are awesome.

    I had some bad news recently. The naturalist that I do volunteer work under, has had her job eliminated. There will no longer be a naturalist on staff for MDC in St. Joseph. The decision to do away with her position is absolutely unbelievable! We were doing literally hundreds of programs each year with students all over Northwest Missouri, now all of that will come to an end. All the hard work was for naught. I've been a volunteer there for 6 years, and have given almost 1,000 hours. I've implemented several outreach programs, one is featured on this blog called Insect-O-Rama. I have designed numerous powerpoint slide shows for students, and visited their classrooms and showed them the amazing world of insects. I've led so many trail hikes I would hate to hazzard a guess how many miles I've logged on the trail behind the department where I volunteered. Each time I think about this part of life coming to a close it makes me cry. The unfairness of it all is overwhelming. The naturalist, Rebecca is equally upset. She loves St. Joseph, and they are basically forcing her to transfer to Kansas City to a nature center there. It is 1 1/2 hours south of us, and she has no desire to go there. Her life is be uprooted. Why the powers that be can't see the importance of maintaining a naturalist/ interpreter on staff is beyond me....So many kids who looked forward to coming out to our office to visit the trail, or see the woods, touch a snake up close or learn about the ponds, will now have to do it on their own. It is so sad. I will continue to do my insect programs for the schools, because I have tons of resources available to me to do so. I will most likely be unable to do any others, like snake programs, bird programs, etc. Simply because I will not have access to any materials or any kind of a support group now. I know they say when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I am trying to live by that philosophy, but right now I am PO'd!!!! I am thinking of starting a website, and hiring myself out as a Rent-A-Naturalist. Whaddya think?

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  5. Can they be found in Florida

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  6. I have these bees all over my front and back yard. My kids are afraid to play out there. When will they go away?

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    1. I really can't say when they will go away. Depending upon where you live they should be gone with the return of cooler temperatures in the fall. I understand that bees and wasps can be intimidating, we all fear being stung. However these wasps are not known to be extremely defensive and should pose no problem for your children. Tell your kids to not swat at them and providing they don't accidentally grab one they shouldn't have any problems. Typically the only bees and wasps that behave in a defensive (aggressive) manner are those that are guarding a hive or nest (i.e. honey bees (near the hive); Hornets; yellow jackets, etc). Solitary wasps, like the blue-winged wasp aren't protecting honey stores, offspring, a queen or hive mates. Therefore they possess more of a mild temperament. I weed my flowers, walk through my gardens, and spend a great deal of time outside and have never experienced a sting from one of these wasps or any other solitary nester. The only other solution, and it is one I never advise, is to spray them and kill them. But, that should only be used as a last resort; as in a situation where your children are allergic and could experience an extreme, or life threatening reaction to a sting.

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  7. Im wondering at what time of th yr should these " Blue Winged Wasps be released in the garden " - I live in the lower penninsula of Michigan

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