From the monthly archives: "January 2014"

Subject: Flying insect
Location: Newcastle, NSW. Australia.
December 31, 2013 8:07 pm
Can you please help me identify this flying insect that has appeared in our garden in the past month (December 2013). There are quite a few of them, and they appear to like burrowing in the soil and lawn. They are not aggressive, but large enough to give you a fright!!
Signature: The bugman

Blue Flower Wasp

Blue Flower Wasp

Happy New Year.  This is our first posting of 2014.  This is a Blue Flower Wasp, Scolia soror, and we have also seen alternative common names including Black Flower Wasp, Hairy Blue Flower Wasp or Hairy Flower Wasp, depending upon the source.  According to the Victoria Museum fact sheet:  “These wasps will most likely be seen flying just above ground level and in particular flying near or around compost heaps, wood heaps or dead stumps of trees.”  The site goes on to explain:  “Adult female flower wasps are designed to dig. They are large and powerful wasps. The female wasps are often seen visiting compost heaps or wood piles or flying around the dead stump of a tree. They are searching for scarab beetle grubs (such as the Christmas beetle group) in the ground and are quite capable of digging into compost heaps or saw-dust of a tree stump to find beetle grubs.  …. However, many wasps have developed the technique of paralysing their prey and laying an egg inside the host. The hatched larva then feed inside the living host. Flower wasps are one such group of wasps.  Having located a beetle grub, the female stings and lays an egg inside it. The sting from the wasp does not kill the beetle grub but only paralyses it. There is a good reason why the female wasp does not kill the beetle grub. If the sting were to kill the beetle grub, then its tissue would immediately start to rot and decompose. When the wasp egg hatches inside the paralysed beetle grub it is surrounded by living tissue – the food that it needs to eat. The developing wasp larva knows which parts of the beetle grub to eat first to prolong the grub’s life for as long as possible; thus maximizing the chances of complete development of the wasp larva.”  We have read that female Blue Flower Wasps are capable of stinging humans, but they rarely do.  Carelessly handling a Blue Flower Wasp may result in a sting, but since they do not defend their young, there is little chance of being stung while observing a female in search of food for her offspring.