Metallic bee or wasp
Location: Northeast Louisiana
June 20, 2011 10:54 pm
Bugman, In 2010 I was stung by a stunningly beautiful bee or wasp. In reflex I knocked it off my arm. Naturally it was stunned. I was able to capture it and used a lasso technique to photograph it; afterwards I let it go out into the wild blue yonder. It reminded me of a sweatbee, but larger, more the size of a honeybee. Outer shell very hard and glassy. Brilliant metallic peacock blue with translucent black wings. Antennae did not curl like you see in some species. It’s definitely not a cricket killer, orchard bee. I’ve compared every detail. I think it’s too big to be some sort of sweat bee. Hope you can identify it.
This colorful creature is a Cuckoo Wasp in the family Chrysididae. We are very intrigued with your lasso technique for photography. It appears that dental floss or thread was used to keep the Cuckoo Wasp from flying away before the photo session was complete. Cuckoo Wasps, according to BugGuide, as “Parasitoids feed on the larva of the host and cleptoparasites ‘steal’ the host’s food. The food-stealing behavior of cleptoparasite species resembles that of the cuckoo bird and gave rise to the cuckoo wasp’s name. Hosts of parasitoid species include bees, sphecid wasps, potter wasps, sawflies, silk moths, and the eggs of stick insects. Cleptoparasitic species feed on provisions of sphecid wasp nests, which may include dead spiders, true bugs, aphids, or thrips.” BugGuide also notes: “According to Kimsey (2): ‘The female sting has been modified into an egg-laying tube with highly reduced valvulae and poison gland. As a result, unlike most other aculeates, chrysidids cannot sting, and they can be easily handled whether male or female’.” That information contradicts your personal experience that you were stung. Perhaps you were really bitten as it appears that Cuckoo Wasps have well developed mandibles.
Daniel, I had already found the photos on BugGuide of the Cuckoo Wasp, when I was holding my wasp in my hand. I was able to compare them carefully, and I didn’t believe it to be the same wasp. My wasp was bluer in tone and did not have the hair or pitted (bubblely?) shell that the Cuckoo photos seem to show. Mine was extremely slick or glassy feeling. The body wasn’t as thick looking as the Cuckoo (more streamlined). As for the sting, maybe it was a “pinch”, because it certainly didn’t hurt or throb afterwards, but it looked liked it had a stinger and I noticed it because of the pain (minor) on my arm. The lasso was made with jeweler’s wire, which is thin as thread and pliable. It was fairly easy to wrap around his body and then unwrap. This must be a huge family of wasps, in all my searching of images on the internet, I haven’t found one that looked like mine. It is a beautiful creature though, it seemed to me to be a fantasy model of a transformer wasp.
Since we have no entomologists on staff, we may be wrong.