Sightings – Hymenoptera (wasps, bees & ants)

Observer: Richard Mandell

Observation Date: November, 2018

Observation Time:  N/A

Observation Location: 280 Mountain Street

Common Name: Bald-faced Hornet

Scientific Name: Dolichovespula maculata

Comments: The bald-faced hornet is related to yellowjacket wasps, and is not a true hornet. Its colloquial names include bald hornet, white-faced hornet, white-tailed hornet, spruce wasp, blackjacket, and bull wasp.

Bald-faced hornets are social insects and are most active during the day. They live in colonies of up to 700 members. Bald-faced hornets build paper carton nests in the area of the queen’s choosing, typically three or more feet off the ground, and usually in trees, shrubs, on overhangs, utility poles, houses, sheds or other structures. These nests can be as large as 14 inches in diameter and more than 24 inches in length.

Bald-faced hornets usually appear in late summer. Males emerge from unfertilized eggs and impregnate the new females for the next season at the end of the summer. The inseminated insects are the only ones that overwinter, while the remaining members of the nest die off, and the process repeats the next spring and summer. Unlike other stinging insects, bald-faced hornets do not reuse their nests season after season. The new colony members rebuild them each year from new materials.

Bald-faced hornets are aggressive and will attack anyone who invades their space, unlike other stinging insects that only rarely sting when they feel threatened. Removal of a bald-faced hornet nest is dangerous, and should be left to a professional. These hornets have smooth stingers, so they can sting repeatedly, whereas other stinging insects, like honeybees, are only able to attack once before their stinger falls off.

More Information: Wikipedia

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 8/6/12

Observation Time: 1:25 p.m.

Observation Location: near Gavins Pond Dam

Common Name: Cicada Killer Wasp

Scientific Name: Sphecius speciosus

Comments: These large, fearsome-looking wasps burrow in the ground. They are actually not aggressive. I found a sandy area near the Gavins Pond Dam that was peppered with their holes. It took a while to figure out that these holes were made by the wasps.

More Information: University of Kentucky

Cicada Killer Wasp

Cicada killer wasp emerging from its burrow:

Cicada Killer Wasp

Cicada killer wasp burrows:

Cicada Killer Wasp

Cicada killer wasp burrow:

Cicada Killer Wasp

Observer: Gaurav Shah

Observation Date: 9/3/2019

Observation Time:  N/A

Observation Location: Borderland State Park, Northwest Trail

Common Name: Cockroach Wasp

Scientific Name: Dolichurus cf. bicolor

Comments: There are no existing records of this genus in the country in iNaturalist, and only one in BugGuide (which was in Arkansas).  This species has one of the most remarkable adaptations in all of nature: they are able to remove the cockroach’s ability to choose to flee, without removing the cockroach’s ability to move, effectively turning it into a zombie that they can lead around.

More information: https://bugguide.net/node/view/22211

Observer: Gaurav Shah

Observation Date: 9/3/2019

Observation Time:  N/A

Observation Location: Borderland State Park, Northwest Trail

Common Name: Cockroach Wasp

Scientific Name: Podium luctuosum

Comments: This is the first record of this genus in Massachusetts according to BugGuide, and only the second in New England (there are other existing records from iNaturalist).

More information: https://bugguide.net/node/view/202008

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/18/15

Observation Time: 4:40 p.m.

Observation Location: soccer parking lot near Gavins Pond

Common Name: Great Black Wasp

Scientific Name: Sphex pensylvanicus

Comments: Sphex pensylvanicus is a species of digger wasp, commonly known as the great black wasp. It lives across most of North America and grows to a size of 20–35 mm (0.8–1.4 in). The larvae feed on living insects that the females paralyze and carry to the underground nest. Only the females can sting, but they are not aggressive, and only sting to defend themselves.

More Information: Wikipedia

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 8/17/11

Observation Time: 12:15 p.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Dam

Common Name: Great Black Wasp

Scientific Name: Sphex pensylvanicus

Comments: Sphex pensylvanicus is a species of digger wasp, commonly known as the great black wasp. It lives across most of North America and grows to a size of 20–35 mm (0.8–1.4 in). The larvae feed on living insects that the females paralyze and carry to the underground nest. Only the females can sting, but they are not aggressive, and only sting to defend themselves.

This specimen was seen on a swamp milkweed blossom (Asclepias incarnata)

More Information: Wikipedia

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/18/13

Observation Time: 3:15 p.m.

Observation Location: 4 Gavins Pond Road

Common Name: Great Black Wasp

Scientific Name: Sphex pensylvanicus

Comments: This photo shows a great black wasp carrying a paralyzed katydid to its burrow. Sphex pensylvanicus is a species of digger wasp. It lives across most of North America and grows to a size of 20–35 mm (0.8–1.4 in). The larvae feed on living insects that the females paralyze and carry to the underground nest. Only the females can sting, but they are not aggressive, and only sting to defend themselves.

More Information: Bug Eric

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/20/15

Observation Time: 5:10 p.m.

Observation Location: near Gavins Pond

Common Name: Great Golden Digger Wasp

Scientific Name: Sphex ichnumoneus

Comments: Sphex ichnumoneus is a species of solitary wasp, commonly known as the Great Golden Digger Wasp. This large and colorful wasp can frequently be found nectaring at flowers in late summer and fall. It makes burrows in bare ground or grassy places. As with most species of its genus, it specializes in hunting katydids and bush crickets.

More Information: Cape May Wildlife Guide

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/27/11

Observation Time: 3:50 p.m.

Observation Location: soccer parking lot near Gavins Pond

Common Name: Great Golden Digger Wasp

Scientific Name: Sphex ichnumoneus

Comments: Sphex ichnumoneus is a species of solitary wasp, commonly known as the Great Golden Digger Wasp. This large and colorful wasp can frequently be found nectaring at flowers in late summer and fall. It makes burrows in bare ground or grassy places. As with most species of its genus, it specializes in hunting katydids and bush crickets.

More Information: Cape May Wildlife Guide

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/31/12

Observation Time: 11:15 a.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Dam

Common Name: Honeybee

Scientific Name: Apis mellifera

Comments: Honeybees perform the vital service of pollinating crops. Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon maintains honeybee colonies for pollinating strawberries and other crops. Honeybees may travel several miles to gather nectar for making honey.

Since 2007, abnormally high die-offs (30–70% of hives) of honeybee colonies have occurred in North America. This has been dubbed “colony collapse disorder” (CCD). It seems to be caused by a combination of factors, possibly including neonicotinoid pesticides.

More Information: Wikipedia

Honeybee

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 8/17/11

Observation Time: 12:15 p.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Dam

Common Name: Mason Wasp

Scientific Name: Monobia quadridens

Comments: Mason wasps are solitary. They have a metallic blue sheen on their wings. Females usually build nests in abandoned holes of other bee and wasp species. Sometimes mistaken for Bald-faced Hornet, but note the position and extent of white on the abdomen.

More Information: What’s That Bug? and Cape May Wildlife Guide

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 9/22/13

Observation Time: 4:00 p.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond area near soccer parking area

Common Name: Northern Paper Wasp

Scientific Name: Polistes fuscatus

Comments: This individual appeared to be gleaning wood fibers for use in constructing or repairing a nest.

More Information: Wikipedia

Northern Paper Wasp

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 9/9/13

Observation Time: 2:35 p.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond area

Common Name: Red-banded Sand Wasp

Scientific Name: Ammophila sabulosa

Comments: The female red-banded sand wasp first excavates a nest for her larva. After that she hunts a caterpillar, often a moth caterpillar. She then paralyses the caterpillar, but the caterpillar remains alive. Then she carries the caterpillar to the nest. She deposits an egg on the caterpillar. The larva of the wasp develops rapidly. It reaches full size after just 10 days. (Source: Jiri Zahradnik “Bees and Wasps”)

More Information: Wasps

Red-Banded Sand Wasp

Red-Banded Sand Wasp

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/16/11

Observation Time: 4:45 p.m.

Observation Location: near Gavins Pond

Common Name: Thread-waisted wasp

Scientific Name: Ammophila procera

Comments: This large solitary wasp (over an inch long) has an interesting life cycle, which is shown in this Vimeo video.

More Information: insectidentification.org

Thread-Waisted Wasp

Thread-Waisted Wasp

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 5/19/13

Observation Time: 3:20 p.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond area

Common Name: Velvet Ant

Scientific Name: Pseudomethoca simillima

Comments: This ant-like creature is not an ant at all, but rather a wingless wasp. It can sting you, so don’t pick it up!

Watch (and listen) to a velvet ant in action.

More Information: The Backyard Arthropod Project

Velvet Ant

Velvet Ant

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/7/18

Observation Time: 1:45 p.m.

Observation Location: Moose Hill Farm (TTOR)

Common Name: Weevil Wasp

Scientific Name: Cerceris

Comments: Members of the genus Cerceris hunt weevils and other beetles. Females dig nests in the ground along roads or in areas with loose sand or soil like baseball fields, parks and beaches. They compact the material and create cells where they lay a fertilized egg. They fly off, in search of future food for their larvae.

Female Weevil Wasps bite their prey and paralyze them. The weevil or beetle is then brought back to the nest and stuffed inside a cell where they will remain paralyzed. A hatching wasp larva will immediately begin feeding on the living, paralyzed weevil or beetle. Once the wasp has grown, it will pupate into its adult form and leave the nest.

More Information: Insect Identification

This wasp is small – less than 1/2″ long. 

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 5/27/10

Observation Time: 4:25 p.m.

Observation Location: Beneath the high tension lines near So. Walpole St.

Common Name: Wool Sower Gall Wasp

Scientific Name: Callirhytis seminator

Comments: Pink-spotted, white cottony wool sower galls are about the size of a ping-pong ball and are produced by a tiny species of Cynipid wasp, Callirhytis seminator, and are most commonly found on white oaks. 

More Information: The UnderStory