Mud dauberwasps

Adults of Chalybion and Sceliphron are 18-30 mm long, and the body may be black, purplish blue, metallic blue, or black with yellow markings. These wasps prey on spiders, grasshoppers, katydids, crickets, and caterpillars. Females build mud nests on the sides of buildings and in protected sites, including in attics and sheds. Cells of mud are constructed until they make a mass 4-8 cm wide. After provisioning each cell with prey and laying an egg, the cells are covered with mud to make a smooth outer surface. Larvae complete development in about 3 weeks and spin a cocoon, but they pupate the following spring. These wasps rarely sting, and do not defend their nest site.

Sand wasps, Bembix spp. Adults are 11-20 mm long; their body is black and the abdominal segments have yellow markings, which are similar to yellowjackets. They have relatively large heads and eyes. The abdomen has a broad base and tapers to a point posteriorly. They build nests in sunny and sandy locations; some species are common along the seashore. Numerous nests may occur in small areas, and the nests are often defended. They provision their nests with flies, often Eristalis (Syrphidae) and Tabanus (Tabanidae). Their nests consist of a tunnel in the soil about 1 m long with a horizontal terminal branch. Cells containing developing larvae are left unsealed, and females provision the cells daily. In Bembix rostrata a single female supports five or six larvae and each larva requires 50-80 flies during the 14-15-day development period. When the larva is nearly full-grown the female closes the brood cell and the larva spins a cocoon. Overwintering is spent in the prepupal stage, and the adult emerges in the spring.

Chalybion californicum (Fig. 9.11a) Adults are 22-24 mm long and entirely metallic blue; the pedicel is about the same length as the remainder of the abdomen. They sometimes take over nests of other mud dauber species. Females oviposit on the provision of paralyzed spiders intended for the larvae of the true mud daubers (Trypoxylon spp. and Sceliphron caementarium) in mud cells under construction. Adultfemales often visitpools of water to gather water to soften the entrances of the cells in the nest. The female removes the spiders stored by the previous wasp, and replaces them with spiders she has collected, and seals the cell. This species is generally distributed in the USA.

Sceliphron caementarium (Fig. 9.11b) Adults are 24-28 mm long and the body is black with yellow markings. This species builds mud nests on ceilings and walls of sheds, sides of buildings, and other peridomestic substrates. Females are often seen collecting water at the edge of pools and puddles. A related species, the black-and-yellowmud wasp, Sceliphron spir-ifex, occurs in Africa. It frequently builds large mud nests provisioned with spiders on the outside of buildings. The mutillid (Mutillidae), Dolichomutillaguineensis, and Osprynchotus spp. ich-neumonids (Ichneumonidae) are parasites of this mud wasp.

Cicada killer wasp, sphecius speciosus (Fig. 9.11c) Adult females are about 39 mm long; males are about 29 mm long. The body is blackish brown with reddish-orange legs, and yellow markings on the thorax and abdominal segments 1-3. The prey is species of annual cicadas, Tibicen spp., and they nest in burrows in the soil. Nesting occurs in late summer and fall. Searching for prey begins early in the morning and continues throughoutthe day. The female flies around the tree or shrub in a circular pattern. When a cicada is located, itis stung between the abdominal segments. The wasp turns the cicada onits back, grasps it with its legs and flies back to the burrow in the soil. Burrows dug by the female may be 180 cm long, and contain about 15 cells provisioned with 1-3 cicadas each. Burrows are typically straight for half to a third of their total length; they then curve to form a J-shape. Larval development is completed in the fall and adults emerge the following spring. Females are not aggressive, but males will actively protect areas around burrows. Nests can be numerous in turfgrass. This species is widely distributed in North America, east of the Rocky Mountains.

Horse guard, Sticta carolina Adults are about 22 mm long and the body is black with yellow markings. It occurs in southern USA. Its habit of hunting for flies around horses is the basis of the common name.

Pipe-organ wasp, Trypoxylon politum Adults are about 14 mm long and the body is black, with pale white setae; the hind tarsi are pale. This species builds mud cells in parallel rows that resemble the pipes of an organ. The nests are provisioned with spiders, with 3-18 spiders per cell.

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