What wasp is this?
November 10, 2010 9:33 pm
We have wasps?? feeding on our tea trees in the garden. I have tried to identify this but the marking differ from the available resources.
We spent a bit of time researching this and though we have not found a perfect match, we believe with some certainty that this is a Flower Wasp in the family Tiphiidae. We started our search where we generally start with Australian insects, on the Brisbane Insect website. There are some similarities to the images of the Yellow Flower Wasp in the genus Agruimyia that is pictured on the Brisbane Insect website, but the markings are very different. There is an unidentified Flower Wasp at the bottom of the family page on the Brisbane Insect Website, and the markings are totally different, but the body structure and wing veinage seem similar. The What Bug is That? Australian website has a head on view of a Flower Wasp feeding on the blossoms of the tea tree that is probably the closest visual match we have found. There is a photo of a mounted specimen of Thynnus zonatus on a Tasmanian government website that also bears a resemblance to your wasp, so we did a search on that genus and hit paydirt with a photo tentatively identified as Thynnus apterus on RedBubble. Your wasp is nearly identical to the male wasp on RedBubble and photographer posted this comment: “This is a wingless Female Flower Wasp but I’m actually not sure of this species. Brisbane Insects have a shot and speculate Catocheilus sp., (synonym: Hemithynnus sp.). But I’ve found something close on the WA Ag Dept ICDB Specimen Images that seems close to Thynnus apterus? If anyone knows let me know. (see accompanying shots) Now the story.
I was out in the middle of the day hope to find some nice reptiles or insects and was following an Owl Fly when I saw this lady come out of the sandy soil and climb up the nearest shrub. As she reached the top I heard a buzz past my ear and a yellow headed winged male landed on her (I moved away a bit at this stage having a healthy respect for “flying” wasps!!!). After a quick pash they were copulating and he flew off carrying the wingless female. From the time she emerged from the soil, set off her pheromones and was carried away on her honeymoon the whole episode to less than a minute and a half. Talk about a whirlwind romance with his child bride!!!!” The photos were taken at Emerald Beach in New South Wales, the same state as your city of Wollongong. Most of the wasps in this group in Australia have wingless females and the winged males fly about with the females attached during the mating process. Just to create additional confusion, when we did an image search for Thynnus apterus, a nearly identical image of a mounted specimen identified as Agriomyia maculata (flower wasp) popped up from the entomology collection of an Australian museum. After an hour, we thought this is enough research for now. We are confident that you have a Flower Wasp in the family Tiphiidae, which may be either Thynnus apterus or Agriomyia maculata, or the two names may be synonymous for the same species.
Ed Note: April 4, 2013
We returned from a holiday and found a slew of mail, including this correction with the explanation that the family has now been split because of DNA analysis. DNA analysis is now revolutionizing entomology, and we are a bit sad that observations are now not enough for conclusive species identification. “Dead and spread” to quote Julian Donahue now seems to be the only way we mere humans will ever know for sure if the taxonomy is correct until the next new revolution in attempting to understand the complexity of life on our planet is discovered.
Correction: April 4, 2013
It should read now Thynnidae.
Dr Graham Brown
Consultant Insect Taxonomist