Saturday, September 8, 2012


The Wingstem flowers are just about spent, so insects in search of pollen have been concentrated onto the few plants that are still blooming.  One of my favorite wasp species, the Double Banded Scoliid, Scolia bicincta, was out in force to gather pollen and nectar.  The name comes from the two bands of white clearly visible on the abdomen.

I’m a fan of animals with black and white patterns.  This one is particularly attractive.

A covering of hairs makes this wasp a pollen magnet.  This species leads a solitary life style with no permanent nest, so the pollen is not collected and stored.  Females lay their eggs on grub type beetle larvae in which the wasp larvae will feed until emerging to pupate.

I rarely see this species anywhere but on flowers.  Since it doesn’t store any of the flower material, everything it eats goes to maintaining a healthy body for mating and laying eggs.

I was sitting on the porch a few hours after taking photos of the wasps on flowers and a black and white wasp buzzed in and nearly hit me in the face.  As she went past I could see that she was holding something in her jaws.  She disappeared with her burden into an abandoned Carpenter Bee nest.  This wasp was a Four-toothed Mason Wasp, Monobia quadridens, a species that creates brood chambers inside available tunnels like those made by Carpenter Bees.  Each chamber is packed with caterpillars and one wasp egg.  Young from this nest probably won’t hatch until next spring.

It’s interesting that Carpenter Bees are not tunneling out new nests on the porch this year, but their old tunnels are being fully utilized by other species.  Grass plugging the entrance to this old tunnel indicates it has been used by a Grass Carrier Wasp.  Similar in habit to other tunnel nesting wasps, the Grass Carrier created a series of tree cricket filled chambers in which its young will develop. 


  1. I have double banded scoliids (or a very similar species) in my yard in Georgia. I didn't know what they were until I read your article. Most insect guide books seem inadequate. Are there any insect guide books that you recommend?

    Also, a few days ago I saw a wasp carrying a small cricket while it walked on the window behind my computer. The toolshed in my yard is pockmarked with carpenter bee holes. That species of wasp may be making use of those holes.

  2. Oh, my. We've had some pretty nasty wasps here. Not so bad this year, but we have had some really bad swarms and stings in recent years. One of our dogs happened upon a wasp nest and the poor guy was stung terribly.

  3. Two questions-what is your camera for these good close-ups and do you just let the carpenter bees do their thing or discourage it?

  4. Hi Mark. I have two field guides to insects; 1- Peterson Series by Borror and White, 2- Kaufman Series by Eaton and Kaufman. The Kaufman book is more modern and much better illustrated. I’ve been using the Peterson book for 40 years and am pretty used to it.

    I also have two general texts that I like to use; 1- American Insects by Arnett, 2- Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity by Marshall. Both have good information on the various insect Orders and sometimes go all the way down to the species level.

    The above publications are what I like to use as general insect references. I’ve not yet found a good reference specific to wasps. I also like to check things out on I like to use the web site as a confirmation that I’ve arrived at the proper ID.

    Hi Lois. I once had a dog that loved to dig up yellow jacket nests. He sometimes got so many stings that his muzzle would swell, making him look like a cartoon dog. He never seemed bothered by this.

    Hi Rick. The close-ups in this post were taken with a Canon G11. I also get good close-ups with an Olympus SP-500UZ. These are the only two cameras I own.

    Unless the bee tunnels are threatening the integrity of the structure, I leave them alone to do their thing.

  5. Grass carrying wasp! That is the guy I saw recently. Thank you for shedding light on this topic- I was too slow with the camera to capture its image. Great job!