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It pays to be lazy (and sneaky)

February 14, 2020

Arguably some of the most beautiful insects in Australia are the Cuckoo Wasps (pictured). Sometimes called Jewel Wasps the colours are due to the way their multi-layered and pitted exoskeletons interact with light – the same as for Stag Beetles. They are a frequent visitor to the Blue-banded B&B. I found to my surprise that they are not at all interested in the Blue-banded Bees nesting in the structure like many of the other wasp visitors, but rather the Mud Wasps building nests there.

Cuckoo Wasps are named because the process by which they rear their young uses the same principle employed by Cuckoos, laying eggs in the nest of another species. Cuckoo Wasps are parasitoid meaning they are parasitic but the end point is the death of the host. Furthermore they are klepto-parasitoid (from the Greek word kleptein meaning to steal). They steal both nests and the food provisions from other wasps.

Throughout summer wasps such as Potter Wasps and Mud-dauber Wasps are busily constructing mud nests of different shapes and sizes. Into these nests they place spiders, caterpillars, etc (depending on the species of wasps) that have been paralysed. The female wasp then lay eggs on the prey and seals the nest. When the eggs hatch they have a supply of fresh food to eat.

In steps the Cuckoo Wasp. The Cuckoo Wasp does not build a nest. It waits around the nest site of a Potter Wasp, for example and when the Potter Wasp leaves the nest to hunt for more food the Cuckoo Wasp lays its eggs in the Potter Wasp nest. The Cuckoo Wasp eggs generally hatch first. The larvae consume the stored food supply and then the Potter Wasp eggs.

The pictured wasp flew into the house and was trying to get out. Though temporarily detained, no wasps were hurt making this blog.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rosemary Simon permalink
    February 14, 2020 12:00 pm

    Make great brooches

    • ronlit permalink*
      February 18, 2020 12:37 pm

      and they are ‘self-attaching’!

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