Grass Cutting Flying
Location: Southern NH
August 1, 2011 6:40 pm
I was recently enjoying some time in my yard, relaxing under the shade of a maple tree when from the corner of my eye I saw what appeared to be a bit of hay or dried grass floating from the sky. As I watched the floating vegetation I realized that it wasn’t floating at all but headed in a direction, with purpose, into a small hole in the axle of my wheel barrow.
Of course with my curiosity peaked I watched and to my surprise a hornet looking/flying ant-ish insect popped back out and within a minute was back again with another bit of grass. This continued for as long as I watched and managed to get a picture. I checked under the hornet/wasp directory but did not see anything resembling my little ’bugger’. As far as I could tell he/she was acting alone going back and forth cutting off dead tops of long grass and bringing them back. It was captivating to watch but now I must know what it is and what it was doing (and whether or not I should be worried that it is starting a grass collection in my wheel barrow (stinger?) . . . Thanks Bunches
Signature: Nicole in NH
We got tremendous pleasure reading about your observations of this Grass Carrying Wasp in the genus Isodontia. According to BugGuide: “Females make nests in a tree, hollow stem or other cavity, divide into sections and close with grass. They provision with Orthoptera (Tettigoniidae, Gryllidae). Can be two generations per year (I. mexicana in PA).” BugGuide also provides this information: “Taken from the Internet Reference below (Penn State): The adult wasps emerge from their cocoons in early summer, mate, and the females locate a suitable nest site. She collects blades of grass and grass and hay stems to line the nest cavity. The wasp can be seen flying through the air with the blades trailing beneath her. She lands at the hole and enters, pulling the blade in behind her. After the nest is prepared, she hunts for tree crickets (i.e., Oecanthus sp.), captures and paralyses them with her sting, and transports them to the nest. She deposits eggs in the nest and the emerging larvae will feed on the living, but immobile crickets. When the larvae reach the appropriate size (in 4–6 days at 70–75° F.), they spin a cocoon and pupate. The adult wasps emerge in 2–3 weeks. In Pennsylvania, Isodontia mexicana typically produce two generations per year.” If that timeline is accurate, you can expect your wheelbarrow to be out of commission for about a month while it is being used as a nursery should you desire the young Grass Carrier Wasps to develop without incident.
Well I must say Thank You very much for your quick response and solving this mystery for me. I have another wheelbarrow that I’ll use for now since I have sort have taken a liking to the little critter and the free lawn mowing! 😉