a wasp?
Several days ago I noticed caterpillars eating one of my patio plants…Today I witnessed something very interesting: a wasp-like insect appeared, flew under the leaf, pushed one of the caterpillars off to the ground, picked it up and then ate it! It needed little more than five minutes. By the time I got the camera, the caterpillar looked like a wasabi-pea (see the picture). Few hours later there was only one caterpillar left, and I won’t be surprised if it’s gone by tomorrow. I did google search and I think my little garden helper is a golden paper wasp. Am I right? Thanks:)
Monika, Fullerton, CA
PS. great site;)

Hi Monika,
Except for one detail, your account is very accurate. This is Polistes aurifer, and though BugGuide does not list a common name, the species name is analyzed as being: “Latin for ‘bearer of gold’ from aurum- ‘gold’ + fer- ‘that which bears, carries, wears’.” Wasps in the genus Polistes are known as Paper Wasps because of the nest which is composed of individual cells for developing wasps. Our very old version of Charles Hogue’s Insects of the Los Angeles Basin lists a common name of Golden Polistes, and still had it listed as a subspecies with the name Polistes fuscatus aurifer. Golden Paper Wasp is a very appropriate name for this wasp. Your inacuracy is that the adult wasps do not eat caterpillar. They feed on nectar and juice from fruits. Charles Hogue writes: “Adult wasps gather caterpillars, which they skin and chew before feeding them to the grub-like larvae developing in the cells.”

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Location: California

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