Monday, July 20, 2009

New Neighbors

We have new neighbors. She's a single mom trying to make it on her own. OK, I know you cheated and looked at the picture so you know I'm not talking about a person. She's a Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) and she's moved in right by our main door.

This big beauty is a common visitors to gardens across the US, parts of Canada and point further South (interesting in the Western US this wasp has pale wings while here in the Eastern US she'll have dark wings). She often frightens gardeners with her large size but she is really a shy girl who won't bother you unless you try to pick her up (hey baby, what's your sign? Buzz off!).

The adult Golden Digger Wasp actually consumed nectar and is a good pollinator to have in the garden. She will also prey on some garden pests in the Katydid family to provision her nest. The female digs a burrow, preferably in sandy soil, with around 8 cells branching off a main tunnel (the sources I read had different numbers but they were all around that). In each cell she places one or more crickets, katydids, camel crickets or similar insect and then she lays one egg. Once she has filled the cells in one burrow she will seal it closed and begin to dig another burrow, repeating the process for the duration of her short life.

Golden Digger Wasps are solitary but not territorial. You can find several digging in close proximity but they do not share a nest. In this photo you might be able to see a second wasp perched on the edge of a paver. This is not a Golden Digger Wasp and the presence of this wasp clearly agitated the Golden Digger. It is possible that the second wasp was looking for a free ride and hoping that our Golden Digger would leave the entrance to her nest long enough for it to slip in and lay it's own eggs. Wasps are not know for their compassion.

Our Golden Digger has moved on to a second site, also near our main door. I guess I won't get to that project where I actually put the pavers in the ground this year, I'll wait until after next summer when her brood will have hatched and flown off for their short summer of love and digging.

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