Blue Winged Wasp: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide

The Blue Winged Wasp (Scolia dubia) is a unique and beneficial insect native to the United States.

Its habitat extends from the St. Laurence River down to Florida and west to Arizona, making it quite widespread across the country 1.

This fascinating wasp is easy to identify by its black head and thorax, rust-red colored abdomen, and two yellow spots on its first red segment2.

An interesting feature of Blue Winged Wasps is that they are solitary, meaning they don’t live in large colonies like some other wasp species3.

Their primary reason for being seen as an asset in many gardens is their role in controlling harmful pests.

For instance, their larvae feed on Japanese beetle grubs and other scarab beetle larvae, which can cause significant damage to plants4.

Amidst the variety of wasp species, Blue Winged Wasps have a relatively gentle demeanor, making them less threatening to humans.

Remember that these wasps are an integral part of nature’s pest control system, and their presence contributes positively to maintaining a healthy garden ecosystem5.

Blue Winged Wasp: Basic Facts

Identification

The Blue Winged Wasp, scientifically known as Scolia dubia, is characterized by:

  • Shiny black head, thorax, and fore abdomen
  • Two yellow spots on the sides of its abdomen
  • Distinctive dark blue wings
  • Distinctive antennae

These features make it easy to identify among other wasps in the Hymenoptera order.

File:Blue-winged wasp in BBG (42849).jpg

Source: RhododendritesCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Range and Habitat

Blue Winged Wasps can be found in a wide range of areas across the United States.

Their range extends from the St. Laurence River down to Florida, and west to Arizona 1. They typically prefer habitats with:

  • Sandy soil (where they nest)
  • Flowering plants (for nectar)

Classification

Blue Winged Wasps belong to the Scoliidae family within the Hymenoptera order. Here’s a quick table of the relevant classification levels:

Level Blue Winged Wasp
Order Hymenoptera
Family Scoliidae
Genus Scolia
Species Scolia dubia (Blue Winged Wasp)

As part of the Scoliidae family, these wasps are solitary and beneficial for controlling beetle populations, as their larvae feed on Japanese beetle grubs and other scarab beetle larvae 3

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Mating

Blue-winged wasps have a unique mating process. During August, the males fly close to the ground searching for females to mate with.

After mating, the female starts her search for the perfect location to lay her eggs.

Laying Eggs

Scoliid wasps, including the blue-winged wasp, are parasitoid insects. They search for beetle grubs, like Japanese beetle larvae, in the soil to lay their eggs.

Female blue-winged wasps will dig a burrow to locate the grubs and paralyze them using their sting.

Once immobilized, the female wasp lays her egg directly onto the grub. This provides a ready food source for the wasp larvae once they hatch.

Larvae and Pupae

  • Wasp larvae hatch and feed on the paralyzed grubs
  • Once fully grown, the larva creates a cocoon and pupates
  • The pupal stage can last for a few weeks
  • Adults emerge from the cocoons, completing the life cycle

Blue-winged wasps and their larvae play a vital role as predators of beetle grubs in the ecosystem.

Their population keeps the number of potential pests, such as Japanese beetles, in check.

Blue-Winged Wasp Life Cycle
Eggs Laid on paralyzed grubs, providing a ready food source for hatching larvae
Larvae Hatch from eggs and feed on paralyzed grubs until fully grown
Pupae Formed within a cocoon when the larva has finished feeding; lasts a few weeks
Adult Emerge from cocoons, mate, and continue the cycle; females search for beetle grubs to lay their eggs

Though they might appear intimidating, blue-winged wasps are not considered aggressive toward humans and have a low likelihood of stinging unless provoked.

Their primary focus remains on reproducing and controlling prey populations in the soil.

File:Blue winged wasp on Melaleuca styphelioides.JPG

Source: Poyt448 Peter WoodardCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Roles in the Environment

Pollination

Adult Blue-winged wasps (Scolia dubia) are known to feed on nectar from flowers1 like Solidago, which helps them play a role in pollination.

As they visit different flowers, they aid in cross-pollination, helping plants reproduce.

Predation and Parasitism

The larvae of these wasps are predators of beetle grubs, such as the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica)2 and green June beetle.

Due to this reason, Blue-winged wasps are beneficial insects for gardens. They are also pollinators for various plants

Interactions with Humans

Stings and Safety

The Blue-winged Wasps are solitary wasps. There are some considerations regarding stings and safety when encountering these insects:

  • Their stingers are used primarily for hunting; they’re not aggressive towards humans.
  • Stings are usually a result of accidental contact or perceived threats.

Risk factors:

  • Handling or disturbing their habitat
  • Stepping on them accidentally

Safety precautions:

  • Maintain a respectful distance
  • Avoid walking barefoot in areas with known wasp populations

Encouraging Presence

To encourage the presence of these helpful wasps in your yard, consider the following:

  • Provide access to sunlight, as they prefer sunny areas
  • Plant mint, which attracts these wasps
  • Avoid overusing pesticides, which can harm these beneficial insects

File:Blue-winged wasp in BBG (42925).jpg

Source: RhododendritesCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

The Blue Winged Wasp, with its distinctive appearance, plays a pivotal role in natural pest control, particularly against harmful beetles.

Native to the United States, these solitary wasps are not only beneficial for gardens but are also non-aggressive towards humans.

Their presence across various states showcases their adaptability and importance in maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

Footnotes

  1. (https://extension.psu.edu/blue-winged-wasp-scolia-dubia-is-a-real-asset) 2 3
  2. (https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/blue-winged-wasp) 2
  3. (https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-insects/solitary-wasps) 2 3
  4. (https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/blue-winged-wasp) 2
  5. (https://doh.wa.gov/community-and-environment/pests/bees-and-wasps) 2
  6. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/blue-mud-wasp.shtml
  7. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/blue-winged-wasp
  8. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/blue-mud-wasp.shtml

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about blue winged wasps. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Blue Winged Wasp

Subject: wasp?
Location: ohio
August 31, 2014 5:42 am
Do wasps collect nectar?
Signature: kelley

Blue Winged Wasp
Blue Winged Wasp

Dear Kelley,
This is a Blue Winged Wasp or Digger Wasp,
Scolia dubia, and like many wasps, adults feed on nectar.  According to BugGuide:  “Adults take nectar, may also feed on juices from beetle prey.  Larvae are parasites of green June beetles and Japanese beetles.” 

Most young wasps are carnivorous, but they cannot hunt for food, so adult female Social Wasps hunt for prey and return to the nest with it to feed the young, or in the case of solitary wasps, they will sting and paralyze food to provide fresh meals when the eggs hatch and the larvae begin to feed.

Letter 2 – Blue Winged Wasp

Subject:  Wild Garlic Pollinator Wasp
Geographic location of the bug:  Virginia Beach, VA
Date: 09/10/2017
Time: 10:31 AM EDT
Hello Bugman (or woman)! Captured this beautiful wasp enjoying the pollen from our garden this weekend. Could you possibly identify? Thanks so much again for your great website and non-stop education!
How you want your letter signed:  Buzz Buzz Buzz

Blue Winged Wasp

Dear Buzz,
Your wasp,
Scolia dubia, is commonly called a Blue Winged Wasp or Digger Wasp, according to BugGuide which also states:  “Adults take nectar, may also feed on juices from beetle prey. Larvae are parasites of scarab beetles, mainly June beetles and also the introduced Japanese beetle” and “Males and females have a courtship dance, flying close to the ground in a figure-8 or S pattern.

Females burrow into ground in search of grubs, especially those of Cotinis and Popillia japonica. She stings it and often burrows farther down, then constructs a cell and lays an egg on the host. Larva pupates and overwinters in a cocoon within the body of the host. One generation per year in North, more in South.”

Letter 3 – Blue Winged Wasp

Subject:  Black bee
Geographic location of the bug:  Long Island NY
Date: 10/14/2018
Time: 08:46 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This black thing fell from above my head onto my leg while I was sitting at the train station. It slid down off my leg & got caught wiggling around between my sock and sneaker!

I thought it was a black cockroach!! Anyway, I injured it trying to get it out of my shoe. Now out it actually looks like some sort of a Bee?? I have never seen one this color! What do you think it is?
How you want your letter signed:  Curious

Blue Winged Wasp

Dear Curious,
This is a Blue Winged Wasp, Scolia dubia, one of the Scarab Hunter Wasps.  According to BugGuide:  “Males and females have a courtship dance, flying close to the ground in a figure-8 or S pattern. Females burrow into ground in search of grubs, especially those of
Cotinis and Popillia japonica.

She stings it and often burrows farther down, then constructs a cell and lays an egg on the host. Larva pupates and overwinters in a cocoon within the body of the host. One generation per year in North, more in South.”

Letter 4 – Blue Winged Wasp

Subject:  Scoliid wasp
Geographic location of the bug:  New Jersey
Date: 08/20/2019
Time: 12:03 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi I have 100’s of these flying Ober my grass in nj
I’m afraid for by dogs but I understand they don’t sting
How do I get rid of them?
How you want your letter signed:  Bob NJ

Blue Winged Wasp

Our automated response:  Thank you for submitting your identification request.
Please understand that we have a very small staff that does this as a labor of love. We cannot answer all submissions (not by a long shot). But we’ll do the best we can!

Thank you
I think they’re scoliosis
1st thought they were Secada hawks

Dear Bob,
This is a Blue Winged Wasp, Scolia dubia.  Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine in humans.  You are correct that Scoliid Wasps are not aggressive and we strongly doubt they will sting you or your dogs.  Because the Blue Winged Wasps are so plentiful, there must be a large number of Scarab grubs in your lawn. 

Many homeowners spend money to have their lawns treated with pesticides to eliminate the Scarab grubs.  You have a natural remedy.  We would choose the Blue Winged Wasps over pesticides. 

We do not offer extermination advice.  We don’t want to even inquire about the circumstances leading to the death of this Blue Winged Wasp.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

6 thoughts on “Blue Winged Wasp: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide”

  1. can I get your Emil bugman I rile lick bugs and it wood be very useful thane you

    P.S
    I am 13 and I have so many questions thank you

    Reply
  2. can I get your Emil bugman I rile lick bugs and it wood be very useful thane you

    P.S
    I am 13 and I have so many questions thank you

    Reply

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