Cuckoo Wasp Interesting Facts: 4 Things You Should Know About This Rainbow Colored Wasp

In this article, we will share some immensely fascinating facts about cuckoo wasps, one of nature’s most beautiful wasps.

Cuckoo wasps are interesting insects widely recognized for their beautiful colors.

You can spot them in rainbow or shiny metallic colors, mostly blue and green.

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There are several interesting facts about cuckoo wasps that make them one-of-a-kind.

In the following article, I will discuss some interesting facts.

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What are Cuckoo Wasps?

Cuckoo wasps belong to the family Chrysididae and the order Hymenoptera. They are also known as ruby-tailed wasps and are usually under 0.5 inches in size.

The term Chrysididae is derived from the Greek word “Chrysis,” which means “gold vessel” and could have inspired the term “gold wasps.”

They have unique bright and metallic colors, making it very easy to spot them.

Cuckoo wasps are solitary wasps and do not live in social colonies like other bees. They do not build nests or colonies.

Cuckoo wasps are also external parasites and feed on mature bees and wasp larvae.

Adult cuckoo wasps will also feed on flower nectar while foraging and looking for potential hosts.

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4 Amazing Facts About Cuckoo Wasps

1. Cuckoo wasps live up to their name: they plant eggs in other arthropod’s nests

The cuckoo wasp engages in an activity known as brood parasitism, which the cuckoo bird also engages in. It means that they lay their eggs in the nests of other wasps or bees.

Living up to the name, the female cuckoo wasp, once pregnant, stakes out a good wasp or bee nest to lay her eggs in.

At the right moment, when the host insect leaves its incomplete nest unattended to hunt for food, the female cuckoo wasp will sneak into the nest and leave her eggs with the host’s eggs.

Another way they sneak into a host’s nest is by attaching themselves to the paralyzed prey that the host drags into the burrow as food for its larvae.

Once the resident bee or wasp finishes the nest, she leaves food inside for her own larvae and seals the nest.

Once the eggs hatch, the cuckoo wasp larvae either feed on the host larva of the bee or wasp or starve them to death by monopolizing the food source within the nest.

Cuckoo Wasp: Pseudomalus auratus

2. They can curl themselves up, and their outer shell protects them like an armadillo

Cuckoo wasps are protected against the stings and attacks of other insects by their exoskeleton.

The inside surface of their abdomen is cupped, so if and when they get attacked, cuckoo wasps tuck their legs in and turn them into a ball.

Much like an armadillo, the external skeleton will then protect the cuckoo wasp against the attack of other insects.

Usually, when the female cuckoo wasp tries to sneak into the nest of another bee or wasp, there’s a high possibility that the host insect will catch her inside the nest.

The female cuckoo wasp curls into a ball when the host bee or wasp attacks her. The host is then left with no choice but to pick up the cuckoo wasp ball and evict her from the nest.

The unharmed female will try again to sneak into the nest whenever possible to lay her eggs.

Cuckoo Wasp

3. There’s an arms race going on between cuckoo wasps and apoid wasps

Scientific research has established that when brood parasitism occurs, there is pressure on the parasite to evolve methods to remain undetected and on those being preyed on to evolve so that they can detect the parasite.

This is the case with cuckoo wasps and apoid wasps as well.

While apoids had to find a way to embalm their prey, cuckoo wasps felt no such need, and thus the chemical composition of their venom is different.

4. Scientists don’t understand the reason behind their beautiful colors

As we discussed above, cuckoo wasps have unique and interesting colors.

Their appearance greatly contrasts their brood’s parasitic nature of leaving their eggs in another bee’s or wasp’s nest.

Since they use camouflaging techniques and trickery to lay their eggs, you would expect them to be ordinary-looking so as not to draw attention to them.

However, that is not the case. Cuckoo wasps can be spotted in bright colors like red, blue, and green.

They are also known as gold wasps, jewel wasps, or emerald wasps, probably because of their shiny colors.

Interestingly enough, scientists have not been able to pinpoint the exact purpose behind their colorful appearance.

It was only in 2009 that it was found that colors are a result of light refraction.

The cuckoo wasp’s exoskeleton has open spaces in between the six layers of cuticles.

Light refracts when it falls onto these open spaces, giving the wasps attractive and shiny colors.

Cuckoo Wasp

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of cuckoo wasp?

Chrysura Refulgens is a type of wasp known as a “cuckoo wasp” because it lays its eggs in the nests of other species.
The scientific name for this family of wasps, Chrysididae, comes from their shiny appearance, and many species have names like jewel wasp or gold wasp.
The largest subfamily, Chrysidinae, are kleptoparasites, laying their eggs in host nests and consuming the host egg or larva.
Chrysidids are always solitary and prefer dry, sandy habitats. They can curl into a defensive ball when attacked. Some species visit flowers for nectar.

What species of cuckoo wasp has a red abdomen?

Hedychrum rutilans are a species of cuckoo wasps that are primarily found in Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Bulgaria, Italy, France, Greece, Portugal, Spain, and North Africa.
They are cleptoparasites and parasitoids of beewolf larvae.
The female cuckoo wasp paralyzes honeybee workers and then puts her eggs on them. These poor honeybees end up becoming food for beewolf larvae.
Those larvae are then placed in the female beewolf’s brood cells.
When the beewolf larvae come out, the cuckoo wasp larvae are waiting for them. They use both them and the honeybees to satisfy their dietary needs.
These wasps prefer sandy and warm habitats.

What is the rarest wasp in the world?

The emerald cockroach wasp is a solitary wasp found in tropical regions of Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
It has a metallic blue-green body and a unique reproductive behavior where it stings a cockroach and uses it as a host for its larvae.
The wasp chews off half of the roach’s antennae and leads it to its burrow, where it lays eggs between the roach’s legs.
The hatched larva lives and feeds on the roach for several days before consuming its internal organs and eventually killing it.
The fully grown wasp emerges from the roach’s body and lives for several months.

What is the name of a cuckoo wasp?

Cuckoo wasps are part of the Chrysididae family.
Chrysididae is a large family of parasitoid or kleptoparasitic wasps with over 3000 described species.
They are known as cuckoo or emerald wasps and have brilliant metallic colors created by structural coloration.
They are most diverse in desert regions and often associated with solitary bee and wasp species. Some species have evolved chemical mimicry of host odors.

Wrap Up

The cuckoo wasp is a very interesting species of wasp. These tiny insects have a lot going on for someone as little as them.

It starts with their colorful and metallic appearance. Cuckoo wasps can be spotted in several colors, from blue and green to red and purple.

They are also brood parasites that leave their eggs in another host’s nests, similar to what the cuckoo bird does.

Lastly, like an armadillo, cuckoo wasps can curl into a ball to protect themselves from attacks and predators. Their pitted exoskeletons protect them against stings and bites.

Thank you for reading!

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.

83 thoughts on “Cuckoo Wasp Interesting Facts: 4 Things You Should Know About This Rainbow Colored Wasp”

    • There are Cuckoo Wasps in your area and it probably accidentally found its way into your home. Just trap it in a glass, slide a postcard under the opening of the glass and release the Cuckoo Wasp outside.

      Reply
  1. I saw one of these today as it was stumbling around on the ground at a building site. I picked it up to see if it was injured and it curled itself on my hand. I put it on the ground and got my camera but before I could set it on macro, it found it’s wings and gently flew away. I now think it was a young wasp making it’s first flight.

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  2. I found one exactly like the one in this picture, just now. No hd camera to use for photo, but is identical to it and is as he said blue and slick, no hair. I’m in East Texas, Nacogdoches. Never before have I seen one of these before. But I must say it has one heck of a stinger, and yes it hurt really bad when it stung me. Still hurts. Call me weeny it’s okay.

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  3. I live in central Alabama and have seen these shiny blue creatures near my kitchen or sink several times. Recently looked for them on the Internet and was surprised that that they were flies, not wasps (guess I deserved that D made in college entomology!)

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  4. Gainesville , FL: I just found one on my bedroom windows frame, it called my attention his strange noise (sounded like when you rip apart a paper bag)

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  5. Thanks for the info. I’m from Louisiana and have seen them thru the years and often wondered what they were. I sure did not know they were a type of wasp?

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  6. Just found one of these creatures flying around in my house. Metallic blue almost black and with black wings, very shiny and smooth. It was large like a wasp. We are in Stockton, CA.

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  7. Found one by stepping on it and thinking it was a bead, it was very hard. Tools picture of it but do t know how to upload to here! I’m in Northeast Ohio!!

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    • According to the Brisbane Insect site: “The adult Cuckoo Wasp’s back is well armored and with abdomen concave beneath. When disturbed, it curl up into a ball. This is a defense behavior against the attack by angry nest host. Cuckoo Wasps are common in Brisbane suburban. They are usually seen flying slowly looking for wasp nest.”

      Reply
    • According to the Brisbane Insect site: “The adult Cuckoo Wasp’s back is well armored and with abdomen concave beneath. When disturbed, it curl up into a ball. This is a defense behavior against the attack by angry nest host. Cuckoo Wasps are common in Brisbane suburban. They are usually seen flying slowly looking for wasp nest.”

      Reply
  8. I just had one trting to land on my leg. And I’m in tasmania. I’ve never seen one before…???
    Are they venturing further now? Do we know why?

    Reply
  9. I just had one trting to land on my leg. And I’m in tasmania. I’ve never seen one before…???
    Are they venturing further now? Do we know why?

    Reply
  10. I’m pretty sure I just shooed one off the inside, house, of my door screen. I didn’t get good look at, as I was more worried about possibility of my 6 yr old being bite or stung. But I’m pretty sure this is what it was and I am in Elk Creek California

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  11. I’m looking at one right now on my window ledge. I heard some hit the window and at first glance I thought it was a regular fly until I realized it was blue! I’m in Chicago btw

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    • I’m in Chicago too and just killed one. I had my newborn with me. Didn’t want to him to get stung. Until I read that they dont sting. But have to be safe with my lo.

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  12. I know it’s being said that they don’t sting but I just had one in my bathroom. When we killed it you could see the stinger come out multiple times. The stinger was very thick!

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  13. I’m getting one a day in my kitchen window. I put a dishcloth on top and then let it go outside. But then another one comes shortly afterwards. This has been going on for about 10 days. I can’t figure out where they’re coming in.

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  14. I live in southwest Kansas & I see one daily flying around my flowers. I am petrified of it so there’s no way I am gonna get a picture of. Actually, as I’m typing this I have just noticed an baby one. As the original poster states, it doesn’t have as round of a body. It’s much sleeker. I find it absolutely gorgeous but am terrified of it at the same time!

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  15. Just found one dead in my house ;), San Jose (Northern California). Absolutely beautiful! If they can’t hurt us, I wish there were more of them. stunning color! I lived in California nearly all my life, and 10 yrs in Texas, this is the first time I’ve ever since this guy.

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  16. I just sadly hit one and Google led me to this blog while trying to figure out what it is. Very beautiful color. I’m in Hlabisa, KZN South Africa

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  17. I had one land on my deck a few days ago. It was a blue-turquoise in color. I thought it was a fly on a diet. It was identical to the second picture above.
    I’m up in North Eastern New Brunswick, Canada on the Bay of Chaleur.

    Reply
  18. I had one land on my deck a few days ago. It was a blue-turquoise in color. I thought it was a fly on a diet. It was identical to the second picture above.
    I’m up in North Eastern New Brunswick, Canada on the Bay of Chaleur.

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  19. I live in northern Pennsylvania and found one while folding my laundry. It was stuck to a towel I was folding. I’m not sure if it is a cuckoo wasp or a different bug.

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  20. We just found 4 dead ones in our home. Not sure where they are coming from…but yes they are beautiful and wow what a stinger. Glad they don’t use it!! We are in Va. Beach Va.

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  21. I found one boring into a crack in one of our entrance way limestone pillars, as if to prepare a nest. He/she might have to relocate. I’m in Mansfield, TX.

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  22. Just saw a pair here , smelling the flowers and non-aggressive. What a beautiful blue!

    Tallahassee, Florida

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  23. Just saw a pair here , smelling the flowers and non-aggressive. What a beautiful blue!

    Tallahassee, Florida

    Reply
    • Quick question im from Michigain. St.clair county. & today i had ome in my home my cat tryed to eat it & kept jumping back like he got stung it landed on me i freaked & killed it. Do they live here? I have never seen one in my 33yrs.

      Reply
  24. I just got one on the inside of my shorts i dont know if it was stinging me are biting i was on the sofa i got him out i never seen one before to day i live in shreveport la.

    Reply
  25. Just saw one of these (I think) flying in my back yard. It landed on the ground and crawled into a little crack in the hard, dry ground. At first I thought it might be some kind of flying ant, but it was huge compared to ants. I live in Tempe, Arizona.

    Reply
  26. I found one that went through the washer and was still alive. I even tried to squeeze it but it would not die. I’m in Florida, is it possible

    Reply
  27. Long-time thread, but never-the-less, if anyone is interested … I took this picture today and just looking to confirm it is also the Cuckoo Wasp.
    Taken in Hamilton, Ontario Canada (09/01/19)

    Reply
  28. Long-time thread, but never-the-less, if anyone is interested … I took this picture today and just looking to confirm it is also the Cuckoo Wasp.
    Taken in Hamilton, Ontario Canada (09/01/19)

    Reply
  29. I found one in my bathroom on the floor. Unfortunately, my cat loves to stalk out insects. I was immediately drawn to its beauty and was delighted to find your article in my research. I live in Northeast Georgia.

    Reply
  30. I just found a simiar insect like this in my bathroom here in north ga! Its a stunning nean blue and green color with pitch black eyes and black wings. Its honestly the most spectacular insect ive seen in person next to the vevlet ant. One thing in prricular that stood out to me and seemed odd is the pinser like jaws it had. It almost looked more like an ant than a wasp

    Reply
  31. I just found one in my house, I tried to kill it. It was curled in a ball. I went to get the trash can and looked back, it was gone and back at the window. I thought it was a fly at first. Not a fly. I live in Maryland.

    Reply
  32. Had one exactly like the photo try to sting me today inside the bathroom at work. 🙁 I did kill it unfortunately when I hit it with my bag. It was very tiny smaller than my pinky nail and it had its stinger out. I examined it after it fell across the room on the floor. It was a very beautiful blue turquoise color and made a normal buzzing sound when it flew by my ear.

    Reply
  33. Found a Cuckoo Wasp stuck in a puddle on my deck after a very heavy rain in Metro Detroit, MI. Brilliant colors with a stinger, was afraid it could have been a new exotic murder hornet or something../glad to see it isn’t as bad as I thought.

    Reply
  34. It sure looks like the cookoo wasp, but smaller and looks like a fly..I hit on my window with my hand and it landed on my table..i thought I squashed it with an candle end..it curled up in a small ball..I hit it again then it rolled onto my floor and stomped it dead, or so I thought..I tried to stab it with a tooth pick..no way it bounced away 3 times..the pick stuck to the wing and I put it in a bottle to take a good look..I was sure it was dead..no way..one wing is damaged..I will save it and have an expert ID the dang thing..I am a senior lady and live in Port Dover Ontario Canada..never seen one of these..I would love to know for sure just what it really is..thank you…Carol

    Reply
  35. I found a hornet like bug that fits this description. About 5/8″ long. A brilliant blue. It has a stinger small and red. Wings are long clear and more rectangle than rounded. In Munroe Falls. NE Ohio.

    Reply

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