This wasp, a Great Golden Digger Wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus, has been making its home around Bicentennial Hall as of late. Thanks to Professor Helen Young for the identification! It’s completely harmless (as are most bees and wasps), only stinging when pinched, walked on, teased, or threatened. This one, I didn’t catch her name, is seen making a nest in the ground next to the sidewalk by Discovery court. It’s about a foot away from the sidewalk, but that is the gravel underneath the sidewalk that she is working so hard to pull out. The species makes a hole in the ground, then preys after grasshoppers, katydids, crickets, etc. It then takes these insects, paralyzes them, lays an egg inside each, and stores it in a hole off of the main burrow. Still alive and fresh, yet paralyzed, (insect refrigeration), the egg hatches in the insect, and the young larvae consume their first take out meal.
There are several females burrowing around there, and probably males flying close by. Go over and say hi. They are quite good pollinators, as it feasts on nectar as an adult. With pollinators under siege lately, we need all of them we can get.
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Thanks for writing about these fascinating wasps. My hope is that, if people learn about them and their biology, they might stop to watch them rather than call facilities to eliminate them. They have very ritualized behaviors, both in excavating the holes in which they lay their eggs and in bringing the grasshoppers and katydids down into their tunnels. The adults feed only on nectar (and perhaps a little pollen), linking them in interesting ways to the Pollinator Garden just in front of BiHall and to the no-mow zones, that are filled with flowering plants. Their presence indicates (to me) the existence of a healthy and complex ecology in the environment, turning the campus into a “living laboratory” instead of an “ecological desert” of 100% lawn.
Congratulations, Tim, on the creation and maintenance of ecological diversity on campus.
I’ve put some laminated information signs on the stone “seat” very near the wasps that describe (in detail) their biology – stop by some time to take a look!