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Murder or Mating? Can you guys help?
Hi Guys,
Hope all is well over there. Here in Queensland we are having severe weather with lots of flooding and as a by product my driveway has become a mud puddle, which today attracted the wasp in wasp1.jpg. This wasp is about 1.5 inches long. It has no sooner settled to gather water or mud when an orange potter landed on it and tried to fly off with it (wasp2, wasp 3).

Are the two the same species, despite the marking variations, engaged in courtship or is wasp1 a different species and is under attack? Wasp4 shows the potter after the other one escaped marriage/murder. Hope you can help.
Trevor Jinks
Queensland, Australia
16th February 2008

Hi Trevor,
What an amazing photo documentation you have taken. We are going to take a guess at this answer. We believe both of your wasps are Potter Wasps, but we are not sure if they are the same species, two subspecies, or two different species that may hybridize. Except for the striped abdomens, they look very similar. The fact that the unknown color variation was gathering mud is good evidence she is a female wasp building a nest. This could also be territorial behavior for the mud puddle turf since the wasp that remained is also gathering mud, and is probably also a female. We located a website with 8 different species and subspecies of the genus Eumenes, but sadly, there are no photos.

Update: (02/16/2008)
Potter wasp: Same or different species
Dear Daniel,
The two wasps are different. The striped looks like a Mud-dauber (Sceliphron laetum). http://www.geocities.com/brisbane_wasps/MudDauber.htm Interestingly, as I type, one of these insects keeps flying between me and the computer on her way to nest she is building behind a poster on the wall. The attacking one looks like the Orange Potter http://www.geocities.com/brisbane_wasps/PotterWasp2.htm http://agspsrv34.agric.wa.gov.au/ento/pestweb/Images/potterwasp1.jpg For a good site showing the difference between the two see: http://hvbackyard.blogspot.com/2007/02/7-entombed-and-eaten-alive.html We have both types of wasp visiting our pond. I often see the Mud- dauber at the edge of the pond collecting mud. The Potter tends to land on the surface of the pond to fetch water. Amazing that one is attacking the other! As an aside: apparently, fossilised mud nests of potter wasps have enabled scientists to date rock paintings in the Kimberley region of Western Australia as being at least 17,000 years old. Best wishes,
Grev

Hi Grev,
We always appreciate your input. The first link that you provided did not lead to the Mud Dauber you indicated, but instead to the Yellow Potter Wasp, Delta campaniforme. Continued searching has provided another possibility: The Large Potter Wasp, Abispa ephippium. The Geocities site includes several images of this species, and it seems to exhibit some variability in the abdominal striping. It seems it is also known as the Australian Hornet. We also found a reference to three species of Giant Australian Mason Wasps in the genus Adispa, including Adispa australiana and Adispa splendida. At this point, we are even more confused, but are favoring either one or more species in the genus Adispa.

Update: (02/19/2008)
Daniel:
Re: the Australian potter wasps, I strongly suspect they are male and female of the same species, in the subfamily Eumeninae of the family Vespidae. With all due respect to “Grev,” they are definitely not mud daubers (genus Sceliphron, family Sphecidae). Not even close.
Eric

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Australia
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One Response to Update: Giant Australian Potter Wasps??? Potter Wasps: Same or different species????

  1. Dane says:

    I have both of these wasps in my collection, and have had them identified at the South Australian Museum. The striped one is Abispa splendida, which is relatively rare. The overly enthusiastic male on top is the common Abispa ephippium. I remember in Brisbane the male ephippiums used to hang around at the swimming pool all day, waiting to jump on the hard working females when they came to get water. The behaviour in the photograph is the same, except this male is chasing after the wrong species.

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