Subject: Beautiful bee or a blue tail fly?
Location: Auburn, NJ
August 23, 2012 9:25 am
This regal creature somehow managed to find it’s way into my kitchen, where I discovered it hanging on a coffee mug the other morning. I got the camera and managed one clear focused shot before I gave her a lift outside. In sunlight the tail end appeared almost a translucent green, which I’m sorry I can’t show.
I’ve been scanning here and at bug guide, but can’t even determine if I’m looking at a bee or a wasp or a fly? The antennae and eye shape suggest one thing, the body size another. Any clue you could offer? I don’t recall ever seeing another like it.
Signature: Creek Keeper
Dear Creek Keeper,
This jewel-like creature is a Cuckoo Wasp in the family Chrysididae. The females lay eggs in the nests of other hosts in the order Hymenoptera to which they also belong. We suspect that each species of Cuckoo Wasp is very specific as to its host, though we are not sure if it is limited to species, genus or family. We also have problems differentiating one Cuckoo Wasp from another at the species level, though they are quite distinctive as a family. According to BugGuide: “Most species are external parasites of wasp and bee larvae; one subfamily (Cleptinae, one genus, Cleptes) attacks sawfly larvae, another subfamily (Amiseginae) the eggs of walkingsticks.” BugGuide further clarifies: “Some species are parasitoids and others cleptoparasites. Either way the host larva dies” and then further clarifies “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.”