Subject: Hot wasp lovin’
Geographic location of the bug: Rio Grande Nature Center, Albuquerque NM
Time: 04:23 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello! We were in the nature center and came upon dozens of these wasps. The smaller ones, which we assumed are males, were flying maybe an inch or so above the ground and clearly searching for something. The larger one, which we assumed was a female, suddenly emerged from underground and the smaller ones went crazy.
She kept trying to get away but couldn’t fly because her wings weren’t dry. I believe I caught the actual act of mating in one of the photos. Are these scarab hunters? It’s the closest we could come in identifying them, but there wasn’t an exact match in the field guide.
How you want your letter signed: Mike
Your images are awesome, and your written commentary is a marvelous observation. We agree that these are Scarab Hunter Wasps in the family Scoliidae, but we are not certain of the species. Our best guess is perhaps Crioscolia alcione (see female here on BugGuide and male here on BugGuide) or possibly Trielis octomaculata which is also pictured on BugGuide. Members of this family exhibit sexual dimorphism, and males are smaller and often with markings different from those of the females. Based on your observations, the males sensed the pheromones of the female that was about to emerge, and they waited for her to dig to the surface.
Thank you! That certainly looks like them. There were dozens and dozens of the males searching everywhere. They were quite friendly and just zipped around us with mild interest.
Male Wasps are physically incapable of stinging.