What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Paper Wasp with Caterpillar
Location: Northeast Florida
June 29, 2012 8:40 pm
I was outside by my tomato plants when I noticed a Paper Wasp flying around one of the plants, landing for a minute or two and then flying around again. It was carrying a very small green caterpillar that looked like a young Hornworm. The wasp would bite and chew on the caterpillar, then fly around with it again. I looked up Paper Wasps and read that they kill caterpillars and take the remains back to their nests. I’m sending a few pictures I took.
Signature: Karen in FL

Paper Wasp Preys Upon Caterpillar

Hi Karen,
We apologize for the delay in getting back to you.  We planned to post your photo days ago but it got lost in the shuffle.  We believe your Paper Wasp might be
Polistes exclamans which is described on BugGuide as having:  “Dark antennae with orange tips” and it is also referred to as the Common Paper Wasp or Guinea Wasp.  We would not discount that it might be another species as Paper Wasps are sometimes difficult to identify to the species level.  It is important to note that Paper Wasps generally bring prey like Caterpillars back to the nest to feed larvae.

That’s okay about the delay, I understand how busy you are. I looked at Polistes exclamans on BugGuide and it definitely looks like my wasp. I was fascinated to see it carrying the little caterpillar around, and I wondered how I could have missed seeing these wasps carrying off caterpillars before!

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Florida

6 Responses to Paper Wasp preys upon Caterpillar

  1. NANCY Burton LUDWICK says:

    I brought four swallowtail caterpillars in and gave each a large glass vase. I put in various twigs and parsley. After 10 days, they each went to the chrysalis stage. One hatched after tw0 weeks. I went to the others and was shocked. Two were eaten from a hole in the shell, and there was a wasp in their enclosures. How does this happen? They have been indoors for over three weeks. Please, what happened?

    • bugman says:

      They might have been parasitized prior to your capturing them.

      • NANCY Burton LUDWICK says:

        I believe you are right. It looked like the caterpillar had been eaten from the inside out. We are watching the last one and it appears that he has become dark on the inside….what a tragedy, but we are so thankful for the one who was ok. That brought tears!!!

  2. Nancy Ludwick says:

    Well, this is so strange! The caterpillars were all siblings. I loved these little guys. I have one left and keeping a close eye on him. We feel that
    the length of time for being in their chrysalis was too long. The other sibling who hatched has been about 9-10 days ago. I watched their mother lay her eggs so I hid them and had no idea how wasps would find them. Thank you for this wonderful website!! Nancy

    • bugman says:

      The Wasp that parasitized your Caterpillars were likely Ichneumon Wasps, not Paper Wasps.

      • NANCY Burton LUDWICK says:

        tHANK YOU SO MUCH for responding! It was the very next day after my first post that our last “baby” was the wasps’ food!! we took his house outside, took the lid off
        and when the wasp emerged, I smacked him so hard with our hamburger turner that you could not tell what it was. Ahhh sweet revenge. Can you tell me how to prevent this again?
        They ate only parsley I planted and organic parsley.
        Thank you!
        Nancy Ludwick

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