Posts Tagged: European paper wasp
Last weekend a little critter made its first-ever appearance in our family bee garden. It was neither a grand entrance nor a grand insect.
"A fly!" I thought, as I looked at its knoblike bristle or arista on the end of each antenna.
But its body--what little I could see of it before it winged out of there--definitely resembled a wasp. A Western yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica) or European paper wasp (Polistes dominula).
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, identified it as a syrphid fly, genus Ceriana, family Syrphidae.
Talented Davis photographer Allan Jones captured an excellent photo of Ceriana in 2012. A full body shot: head, thorax and abdomen! His excellent image (second one, below) shows the distinguishing characteristics: two wings (fly), not four wings (bees, wasps), as well as the arista (fly) and the spongelike mouthparts (fly).
BugGuide.Net posted some excellent images of Ceriana on its site. Class: Insecta. Order, Diptera. Family: Syrphidae: Genus: Ceriana.
Ceriana is a genus of wasp mimics. Basically, it's a syrphid fly, a pollinator. It's also known as a hover fly or flower fly as it hovers, helicopterlike, over flowers before drops down to forage.
Would-be predators, no doubt, avoid Ceriana because of its coloration. "Oops, don't mess with that! That's a wasp!"
Picnickers who don't know a faux wasp from a real one would probably run from it, or swat at it.
"It's definitely a good mimic and probably gets a lot of protection from that coloration," said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
This wasp mimic is actually a fly, genus Ceriana. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Davis photographer Allan Jones captured this fantastic image of the wasp mimic, Ceriana. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a Western yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanic, which looks a lot like the wasp mimic, genus Ceriana. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is a European paper wasp, Polistes dominula. A syrphid fly mimics this. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When you're trying to rear Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae), expect the expected: predators.
It doesn't take long for European paper wasps (Polistes dominula) to find the butterfly's host plant, the passionflower vine (Passsiflora) and prey. We've seen the wasps, with their long hind legs dangling, follow the butterflies as they flit from tendrils to leaves to lay their eggs. The wasps grab the tiny yellow eggs and squirming caterpillars and rip into chrysalids.
They'll attack adult butterflies, too, especially the crippled ones.
Then off they fly with bits of food--protein--for their colony. Wasps are carnivores (unlike their cousins, the honey bees, which are vegetarians).
The European paper wasp, so named because of its European origin, is relatively new to the United States. Scientists tell us that the P. dominula was not recorded in North America until 1981. P. dominula was first discovered in the United States in the late 1970s near Boston, Mass. This invasive species has since spread rapidly across the country. Entomologists worry that it is displacing the native species of Polistes wasps.
Have you ever seen these wasps attack other insects? Butterflies?
Last Sunday we were watching a crippled butterfly (no doubt crippled by a predator such as a bird or praying mantis) clinging to a Passiflora leaf as males tried unsuccessfully to mate with her. Eventually, the males all fluttered away and a European paper wasp patrolling the area zeroed in for the attack.
Like a hungry lion singling out a crippled gazelle from a stampeding herd, the European paper wasp knew just what to do.
European paper wasp targets a crippled Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A European paper wasp attacks a crippled Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The injured abdomen of the Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatle Garvey)
European paper wasp grips the Gulf Fritillary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
People aren't the only ones favoring fava beans.
Fava beans growing in a raised bed in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, are attracting honey bees, European paper wasps, lacewings, ladybugs, aphids and carpenter bees.
We saw all six insects on a trip to the haven last Friday.
While the honey bees and carpenter bees gathered nectar, the European paper wasps, lacewings and the ladybugs searched for prey. The ladybugs were also searching for mates.
The half-acre bee friendly garden, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus, is open year around from dawn to dusk. Admission is free. Visitors can conduct their own self-guided tours by following the signs and reading the plant labels. Groups that want a guided tour (the cost is $4 per person) can contact Christine Casey at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, life is good in the fava beans.
A lady beetle, aka ladybug, prowling on a fava bean leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
European paper wasp on the hunt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on a fava bean blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Female Valley carpenter bee robbing nectar by slitting the corolla. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
An anise swallowtail fluttered in and out of the tall anise bordering the banks of the Benicia Marina.
A beautiful sight.
The female butterfly (Papilio zelicaon), as identified by butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, was probably laying eggs, he told us.
The butterfly is often confused with a Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus). Their coloring does indeed look similar.
As for the anise butterflies, "they have several generations (late February or March-October) and breed very largely on sweet fennel ("anise"), Foeniculum vulgare, and (in the first half of the season) poison hemlock, Conium maculatum," Shapiro writes on his popular website, Art's Butterfly World. "Both of these are naturalized European weeds."
The larvae of the anise swallowtail use fennel as a food plant. Something else about anise: If you crush the leaves, they smell like licorice.
While we were watching the anise swallowtail, something else was watching her: an European paper wasp.
Wasps eat butterfly eggs.
Female anise swallowtail,Papilio zelicaon, as identified by butterfly expert Art Shapiro of UC Davis, visiting anise at the Benicia Marina. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A female anise swallowtail,Papilio zelicaon, touches down on anise at the Benicia Marina. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Up and away--the female anise swallowtail flutters away. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
European paper wasp, apparently scouting the anise for butterfly eggs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The first day of spring--Tuesday, March 20--yielded a diversity of insects in the fava beans planted in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden adjacent to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California,Davis.
A flurry of insects joined the honey bees: ladybugs, a blow fly, a stink bug, an alfalfa butterfly, European paper wasp and scores of aphids.
Fava beans (Vicia faba), one of the world's oldest cultivated crops and native to the Mediterranean region, are also known as broad beans, horse beans, pigeon beans, and the like.
"In North America, Canada is perhaps the largest producer of fava beans since they produce best in cool summer areas," write San Joaquin County Farm Advisors Gary Hickman and Mick Canevari in a Family Farm Series publication of the UC Davis Small Farm Center. "Minnesota and the lake states produce small acreages. In California, fava beans are grown as seed crops along the coast from Lompoc to Salinas and in the Northern Sacramento Valley, but in other areas of the state they are grown mostly as a cover crop or for green manure."
You can learn more about fava beans in the UC Davis Small Farm Center publication. Meanwhile, the insects hanging out in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven are definitely favoring the fava beans.
Count the insects! Ladybugs, a European paper wasp, blow fly and aphids are all over the fava beans in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
European paper wasp and a pair of ladybugs in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Stink bug occupies a fava bean leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on the fava beans. Note the gray load of pollen.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)