Subject: Wasp lands on me WITH caterpillar meal
Geographic location of the bug: Missouri, United States
Time: 12:25 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: so today one of the most cool, weird, and gross things happened to me. I was sitting outside with my bearded dragon and we were under a nice tree. I feel a plop on my arm and I look down to see what it is and my hand is already poised to gently brush off whatever bug has wandered onto me, but I see the black and yellow and my brain registers: THAT is a wasp.
I pulled out my camera as fast as I could because… this is absolutely wild, I’ve never had this happen. and I sit there as I watch this wasp crunch her caterpillar prey WHILE SITTING ON MY ARM… when I moved my arm she got spooked and flew away, leaving her dead caterpillar laying on me… which I brushed off onto the sidewalk.
I have included the caterpillar itself as well, which I’m curious to know the name of, if possible.
How you want your letter signed: Michael
We applaud your quick reflex “inaction” to the aposomatic or warning coloration on this European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula, which we identified thanks to this BugGuide image. According to the Penn State Department of Entomology: “Before 1981, the European paper wasp was not recorded in North America. In its native region, P. dominulais the most abundant paper wasp in those countries around the Mediterranean. It is also found in southern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, and eastward into China. A highly successful colonizer, this wasp has rapidly increased its distribution in the United States during the past 20 years. Before the introduction of this new species, the northern paper wasp, Polistes fuscatus, was the most frequently encountered species in and around structures in Pennsylvania.” That site also observes: “Whenever new species are introduced into an environment (either intentionally or accidentally), there are unpredictable consequences. The increased risk for stings is an obvious concern. Even more troubling, it appears that this new introduction has had an adverse impact on the native species of Polistes. The apparent reduction of indigenous Polistes will undoubtedly result in a change in the faunal balance. It is unclear what the consequences will be. Some entomologists worry that the large numbers of P. dominula will adversely affect the species of desirable insects (i.e., butterflies).” For that reason, we are tagging your submission as Invasive Exotics as well as Food Chain. This is also the most frequently encountered Paper Wasp in our our Mount Washington, Los Angeles garden. We believe this caterpillar is a member of the Owlet Moth family Noctuidae, which includes Cutworms.