Bees, Bees and more Bees

Eastern cicada killer wasp

The Eastern cicada killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus), can be intimidating at about an inch and a half in length and resembles a gigantic yellow jacket. The females have stingers which they use to paralyze cicadas, and each female has a hole in the ground about a half in diameter to which they drag the cicadas to use as hosts for their eggs.

The females are not aggressive and sting only when pressed, such as when stepped on or when accidentally caught in clothing. The males have no stingers, but they are more aggressive and territorial. These wasps are considered beneficial for cicada control and dwell singly in their ground burrow. They are active in late summer in Frederick County.

Killer wasp cicada

Credit: - Bill Buchanan, USFWS

Black-eyed susans

Black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta), the Maryland State Flower, have been in bloom. This native wildflower likes full sun and is attractive to bees, butterflies and other insects, while being highly resistant to insect pests. The roots have been used by the Indians as an astringent for sores and snakebites. When cut, the blooms last about a week. It is not a true perennial, but reseeds naturally each year causing it to spread in gardens. Seed can be gathered from the button after it dries or it can be purchased. Several showy cultivars (domestic varieties) are sold but do not have the wildlife value of our state flower.

Mud dauber wasps

In Frederick County often we find mud-constructed nests of wasps. The two mud dauber wasp nest types most often seen are those built in tubes and nests that are spherical blobs of mud. Both wasp species are not aggressive, rarely sting humans, and prey mainly on spiders. The nests of both types of wasps are built by the females.

The Organ Pipe mud daubers (Trypoxylon politum) are black, with the nest tubes built side by side to house and incubate individual eggs in each tube. The Organ Pipe wasps stock the tubes with captured prey to nourish the developing wasp larvae. The male Organ Pipe wasp is the only wasp known to stay with the nest to help guard it, while the female is out hunting or collecting mud to expand the nest. Considered one of the least aggressive wasps, an Organ Pipe wasp will sting in self-defense when grabbed or swatted.

Organ Pipe wasp nest

Credit: - Eug

Potter wasps in our area (Ancistrocerus adiabatus and Eumenes fraternus) are generally black with yellow bands. The Potter wasp female builds a round nest, reminiscent of a clay pot.

One egg is deposited in each nest, and the nest is stocked with spiders or insect prey for the developing wasp.

Both Potter and Organ Pipe wasps locate their nests in sheltered locations. The nests can exist for years after they have been abandoned by the wasps and can often be used by bees, other wasps or insects for nests. Both types of mud daubers overwinter as young in the nests. In our area they emerge in the spring and look for new nest locations. Sometimes we even find the mud nests on sheltered areas of vehicles or machinery that hasn’t been operated for a while during the spring.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Note for 9/21/14