Stingers

Given how quickly I can kick the bucket from just one sting given by an ant or wasp, or a bee, let alone more than one of any of these, it leads me to think I have a mental incapacitation that prohibits me from seeing the dangers right in front of me as I stand there trying to snap photos of these creatures.

A mason wasp (Pseudodynerus quadrisectus), the very species whose lone member attempted to invade the carpenter bee nest outside my patio.  That individual undoubtedly was looking for a place to start a home and family as they nest in places similar to that of carpenter bees.

A mason wasp (Pseudodynerus quadrisectus) pausing briefly on wet sand (20080601_05996)

A different kind of mason wasp (Monobia quadridens) enjoying a bit to eat from this wild carrot bloom (a.k.a. bishop’s lace or Queen Anne’s lace; Daucus carota).

A mason wasp (Monobia quadridens) enjoying a bit to eat from a wild carrot bloom (a.k.a. bishop's lace or Queen Anne's lace; Daucus carota) (20080422_04441)

A metallic sweat bee (Augochloropsis metallica)[1] who chanced into the purview of my camera even before I realized it had landed on the Engelmann daisy (Engelmannia pinnatifida) I was photographing from some distance away.

A metallic sweat bee (Augochloropsis metallica) digging around in an Engelmann daisy (Engelmannia pinnatifida) (20080422_04399)

Small and stunning, it remained on that flower only briefly.

A metallic sweat bee (Augochloropsis metallica) digging around in an Engelmann daisy (Engelmannia pinnatifida) (20080422_04400)

The ubiquitous western honey bee (a.k.a. European honey bee; Apis mellifera) also enjoying some wild carrot.

A western honey bee (a.k.a. European honey bee; Apis mellifera) enjoying some wild carrot bloom (a.k.a. bishop’s lace or Queen Anne’s lace; Daucus carota) (20080518_05555)

A cuckoo wasp (Chrysis coerulans)[2].  It parasitizes the nests of the common potter wasp (a.k.a. dirt dauber; Eumenes fraternus).  The potter wasp never built more pots and never returned, undoubtedly because the cuckoo wasp had already discovered the burgeoning nest.

A cuckoo wasp (Chrysis coerulans) parasitizing the nest of a common potter wasp (a.k.a. dirt dauber; Eumenes fraternus) on my patio (20080526_05834)

A sweat bee (Halictus farinosus) covered with pollen as it scrounges around the bloom of a musk thistle (a.k.a. nodding thistle; Carduus nutans).

A sweat bee (Halictus farinosus) covered with pollen as it scrounges around the bloom of a musk thistle (a.k.a. nodding thistle; Carduus nutans) (20080601_06091)

And finally, my favorite: a male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perched on the edge of the sidewalk leading from my front door.[3]  Although technically he has a false stinger that is nothing more dangerous than a sex organ, it’s an impressive stinger nonetheless (albeit much smaller than the real stinger his female counterparts wield).

A male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perched on the edge of the sidewalk leading from my front door (20080609_06323)

Let me finish with this:

As I knelt in the dirt and leaned in close to capture this image, my father asked, “What are you doing?”

“Taking a picture of this katydid,” I responded, then I added, “I absolutely love insects!”

“I know,” he remarked.

Most of my love of insects comes from my mother.  She lacks the usual fear of them and taught us kids—or at least me—to appreciate their diversity, their beauty, their lives.

Mud daubers dance around her ankles at the family farm (they nest under one set of outside steps), yet she barely notices, doesn’t flinch, assures others they’re not a danger.  She catches grasshoppers and katydids and other goodies to feed to the chickens (a treat the fowl thoroughly enjoy!).  When a massive dragonfly perches atop a fence post, she gets in close until she’s able to pet it—Yes!  Pet it, I said!—and she’s tickled pink at the opportunity to share that kind of moment with something too many fear.  Like me, she grabs her camera and gets in close to photograph the marvelous diversity and exquisite displays these creatures offer—a treat the family farm amplifies with its location in the middle of the Piney Woods of East Texas.

When the central light pole at the family farm comes alive with a skin of giant moths, she’s there to witness the event and appreciate its majesty.  When massive yellow garden spiders build webs and egg sacks a few steps outside the door, she watches with the enjoyment of a tourist on safari.  When cicadas recklessly crash into her or assassin bugs prance across the table where she’s working or a caterpillar inches its way around her feet, she stops to take notice and displays the truest, most profound spirit of a naturalist: “Would you look at that!  I wonder what that is…”

Thank you, Mom.

— — — — — — — — — —

[1] I originally thought this might be an orchid bee.  Only one has ever been seen in Texas, however, so it seemed far more likely to be a metallic sweat bee.  The photos don’t make identification simple as I wasn’t trying to take a picture of the insect (I barely realized it was there before it was gone); nevertheless, it seems more likely to be a sweat bee than the rarer tropical species.

[2] Most cuckoo wasp species are too similar to identify from such a poor photo (taken from across the patio with the camera on the wrong settings as I barely realized the wasp was there before it vanished; I swung around, snapped two pictures [the second of which was even worse], then it was gone…).  Despite that, the dark wings and its incessant visits to the potter wasp nest—then and later—makes it clear which species this is.  I also believe I might have additional photos of this species from an unfortunate individual who made it inside the house…and didn’t live to tell about it due to feline predators who found the darting prey and relentlessly pursued and attacked it.

[3] I continue to fight with my neighbors about these wasps.  If this is to be my last year in the middle of this enormous colony, the last summer during which I might enjoy the brief appearance of these giants, then let it be a year without interference, a year without the deadly machinations of uninformed humans bent on destroying that which they do not understand (and we all know people fear what they do not understand…).

2 thoughts on “Stingers”

  1. About that non-native cuckoo wasp, Chrysis angolensis: Isn’t it unusual for it to resort to a potter wasp, Eumeninae? I thought that they specialized on Sceliphron

    1. Absolutely right, Mizz Bee. When I looked up the list of parisitoid-vs-prey combinations, I read down one extra line when copying the name. This is actually Chrysis coerulans, not C. angolensis as I originally wrote. Thanks for catching that!

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