The Bug Geek

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Tag Archives: Ichneumonidae

Ichneumonid wasps

I don’t know what it is with me and wasps in stumps lately: I’ve never noticed them in the past, and now I’m finding all kinds of them.  This gorgeous, slender female Ichneumonid wasp woke quickly once I disturbed her.  Her long, banded antennae quivered non-stop as they were bombarded with chemical and tactile signals from the fresh air.  

She climbed to the edge of the piece of log where once she slept and flexed her wings…once…twice…

and then she flew off in a startlingly graceful arc to a moss-covered stump several feet away.  The one thing these images do not capture (much to my great dismay) is the gorgeous deep midnight blue colour she sported over her entire body.  It gleamed with hints of rainbow hues in the sunlight.  I wish I could have shared it with you.

In the same log, her cousin continued to doze.  Antennae ramrod-straight, body motionless, her lovely burnt-orange body was accented by a burgundy thorax and pale yellowish spot at the point where her iridescent wings met.

Until this year, I really had no idea that tiny, dark crevices in dead wood were such great places to find beautiful wasps.  A wonderful discovery, if you ask me!

Wasp revealed! (And AIF #2!)

First, if you haven’t yet, go look at An Inordinate Fondness #2.  Hurry quick!  Do it now!  Beetles!  And Beatles!  ZOMG!


I finally have a name to go with the face of my wife’s mystery wasp!

Dr. Bob Carlson, specialist of Ichneumonidae and BugGuide contributer, has identified her as Aoplus confirmatus.  I am quite pleased that she is the first record of this species on BugGuide.  Yay!

Armed with a name, I have Googled, and I have learned.  Behold:

Adult hibernation in wasps is generally an oddity, but it is a characteristic of a number of Ichneumonid species (the parasitoid wasp family to which our pretty belongs). 

If you encounter a hibernating Icheumonid, you can bet your bippy it’s a female; the males almost always die in the fall after mating, and gravid (egg-filled) females wait until the spring to deposit their eggs in a host.

These pretty parasitoids can be quite picky about their winter digs…for example, some prefer hidey-holes under loose bark, others under moss on felled trees, and some like cavities in stumps created by other insects.    On a larger scale, they seem to like more sheltered, low-to-the-ground terrain, rather than open spaces.

The frequency with which it is possible to encounter these interesting adult wasps during the cold, bug-less months makes them an ideal wintertime study subject.  As a matter of fact, a wasp enthusiast may have more luck tracking down some species as they slumber in their hibernacula than during warmer months using more traditional trapping methods (sweeping, pan traps, Malaise traps etc.)

And lastly, a personal aside for Jason: “Yay!”


Cool (ha!) Reference:  Hibernating Ichneumonidae of Ohio (Dasch, 1971)

Wherein I swoon over a pretty parasitoid (and my awesome wife)

I must say this: being married to a woman who will rip apart rotting logs with her bare hands in order to help you find bugs whilst on a walk in the woods….well, frankly, it rocks. 

This is what she found in one: 

An Ichneumonid wasp

 It’s a very pretty Ichneumonid wasp.  It was nestled in a small cavity near the centre of the log; perhaps it crawled up in there in the fall to overwinter.  The bright yellow bars on the long antennae are a good clue to the family, but I haven’t the foggiest what species it is.  I’ve submitted the photos to BugGuide for help with the ID.   These wasps are very cool in a Ripley-meets-drooling-aliens kind of way…they lay their eggs in the body of a host (a caterpillar or spider, say); their offspring, once hatched, eat the host from the inside out.  Gory, yes.  Also very cool. 

When my beloved asked me if I wanted to keep it to pin later, and I declined, she declared it was too nice to leave behind and that she would keep it for herself.  For her own collection.  



How did I get so lucky?

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