Subject: Wood eating mystery!!
Location: Southeast idaho
August 5, 2016 4:40 pm
Hoping you can identify this bug for me. I live in southeast Idaho and the other day I noticed a VERY loud chewing sound coming from a pile of branches I have in my backyard. When I went over to look all I could see was sawdust looking stuff all over, but I couldn’t find any bugs anywhere. Then today I noticed a few of these bugs flying around. I was nervous at first because it looked like a termite, but I’m not sure that’s what it is. It has a red body, black wings, and long straight black antennas. I’m really hoping it’s not a destructive wood eater.
While we are not able to give you an exact species identification, at least we can alleviate your anxiety by informing you that this is NOT a Termite. We are quite certain that it is a Parasitoid Wasp, and after scouring the pages of BugGuide for the past two days, we believe it is a Braconid Wasp in the family Braconidae. Our best guess at this time is that it might be in the genus Atanycolus, which according to BugGuide is “Next to impossible to identify this genus from images alone, however it is one of the more common genera in the subfamily” and they are found in: “Woodland habitats for the most part.” BugGuide continues with this information: “Parasites of woodboring beetle larvae, especially metallic wood-boring beetles (Buprestidae) and longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae)” Here is a somewhat similar looking individual from BugGuide. Now, here is our theory, though you did not say much about the pile of branches, we suspect the wood may have been infested with the larvae of wood boring beetles. The beetles do make loud noises when they emerge from the pupa and chew their way to the surface. The appearance of these Braconids is an indication that nature is trying to balance things out. When hosts are plentiful, predators (or in this case Parasitoids) increase in number. The female Braconid Wasp will lay her eggs, using her ovipositor, on or near the host, meaning the wood boring beetle larvae. When the Braconid larvae hatch, they feed on the host, eventually killing it. Adult Braconid Wasps eventually emerge from the wood and mate to produce a new generation. So, while this Braconid Wasp is not feeding on the wood, it is trying to control some wood eating species of beetle. That means something is eating your wood pile. Finally, since the individual in your image does not appear to have an ovipositor, we suspect it is a male.
Wow, you guys are awesome!! You really know your stuff! After breaking apart some of the branches, I did find some beetles and larvae. You nailed it! And now I’ll just leave the wasps to feast away! Thanks again!
Thanks for the confirmation.