Subject: Is This a Yellow Jacket?
Location: Tacoma, WA
June 7, 2016 5:07 pm
Due to a bee hive having been completely destroyed last Summer, I have been more attentive to Yellow Jackets this Spring. This one I am having trouble finding information on. The 3 pictures attached are all I”m able to get, as they seldom touch down long enough to focus on. Generally, they move around constantly. So far I have only seen them in the Thyme. They look and fly like Yellow Jackets, but they are tiny, less than half the size, maybe 8-10mm. It also has a large, light colored eye more like a sweat bee.
We are very excited about your submission. This is NOT a Yellowjacket. If our identification is correct, this is a new species and a new subcategory for our site, but it also has one of the best names we have ever heard for an insect. Based on this BugGuide submission, we believe this is an Ant Queen Kidnapping Wasp, Aphilanthops hispidus. Of the genus, BugGuide states: “Nest in ground” and “nests provisioned with winged queen ants.” There are not many images on the internet, but we did locate this image of a mounted specimen on EncicloVida. Of a related species in the same genus, BugGuide states: “Nests are dug in sandy, pebbly soil to a depth of 45 cm. Sometimes form aggregate colonies of 25 to 60 females, especially on sandy slopes with entrances as close as 2 cm apart. Winged queen ants are captured when wandering on the ground, stung and carried to nests with ant antenna between wasp mandibles and rest of body held between the legs. In the nest tunnel, wings are removed and ants are stored near entrance in a cell until individual egg cells are dug. Storage is necessary due to the short flight cycle of winged ants. Females possibly can lay only one egg per day (Evans, 1962). Usually 2 to 3 ants are used in each cell. One generation per year.” We are postdating your submission to go live tomorrow as we are preparing for a holiday away from the office.
UPDATE: June 17, 2016 Eric Eaton provides a correction
Great images, but they depict a cuckoo bee, Nomada sp., not a wasp.