Do Wasps Pollinate? Exploring The Role of These Beneficial Insects

We all know about how useful bees are in the garden as pollinators, but what of their larger cousins, the wasps? Do wasps pollinate, and do they have any other benefits?

Pollination is one of the most important phenomena that takes place in the plant world.

Plants need to transfer pollen from one place to another and continue their life cycle. Without pollinators, new plants cannot be born.

Gardeners often treat bees with affection for their role in pollinating gardens. But this courtesy does not extend to wasps – similar flying insects, just a bit larger than size.

In today’s article, let us tell you about how wasps can be beneficial to your flowers and growing your garden.

Do Wasps Pollinate? Exploring The Role of These Beneficial Insects

Do They Pollinate?

Yes, wasps play an important role in pollination. Adult wasps need sugar for survival, which they get from different sources. The chief of these sources is the nectar of flowers or fruits.

Just like bees, when the wasps visit a flower, they can carry the pollen of that flower.

But there are two problems with wasps as pollinators. First, they do not have as much fuzzy hair on their body that helps the pollen stick to them as bees do.

Secondly, most wasp species are not choosy about the flowers they visit; hence the pollination may not be as successful.

This is also a reason why wasps are called “accidental pollinators.” If the garden mostly has one kind of plant, wasps can do the job, but otherwise, they are less likely to be successful.

Scientists are looking at wasps as pollinators of the future, especially when transferring different types of pollen in urbanized areas may become difficult.

Fig Wasps

Figs are a unique kind of plant where the flower actually grows inside the fruit, not outside. Fig wasps use these fruits to lay their eggs and, in the process, become their pollinators.

Female fig wasps are responsible for the pollination of at least a thousand fig species in the tropics, where these plants are keystone species that define entire ecosystems around them.

Do Wasps Pollinate? Exploring The Role of These Beneficial Insects

Wasps Do Have Hair On Their Bodies

We mentioned earlier that wasps are not as hairy as bees.

In fact, the very common assumption is that bees have hairy bodies and wasps are insects with smooth exoskeletons. However, that is not entirely true.

Certain species of wasps, like the Scollid wasp, have a lot of hair on their body. But they may not appear hairy because the hairs are extremely fine and dense.

The thorax of a number of wasps is very hairy, which you can notice on close inspection.

It is the presence of these hairs that allow wasps to pollinate flowers when they are moving from one flower to another.

Unlike bees, wasps cannot always carry pollen when moving around flowers, making them the less efficient pollinator of the two insects.

Research on Wasp Pollination

Did you know that about 850 species of wasps are social wasps, and most of them can be considered beneficial for your backyard? Most of them are pollinators.

A study by the Royal Entomological Society in 2018 showed that wasps could be very misunderstood creatures.

Bees are, in general, considered more efficient and useful than wasps.

But in spite of their stings and aggressive nature, these insects can prove to be of real help in a household environment.

Moreover, most wasps are actually not as aggressive as they are made out to be. In the United States, yellow jackets and paper wasps, aggressive species of wasps, are quite common.

People often associate bad experiences with yellow jackets with the entire wasp family, but most solitary wasps, digger wasps, potter and mason wasps, and other common wasps are actually docile.

Do Wasps Pollinate? Exploring The Role of These Beneficial Insects

Other Benefits of Wasps

Other than being an efficient pollinating agent, most wasps are excellent at pest control. Many adult wasps are predators; they hunt a variety of common garden pests for their larvae.

You can often see female wasps hunting caterpillars, flies, and spiders. The adults do not consume the prey but carry it to the wasp larva, which feeds on these pests.

These creatures become the main source of protein for the larvae.

If you are looking for organic pest control ideas, introducing insects like wasps in your garden can prove very effective.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do wasps pollinate your garden?

Yes, wasps do pollinate our gardens. Adult wasps derive their nutrition from the nectar of flowers. In the process, they end up transferring pollen from one flower to another.
In a limited space, like a domestic garden where there are a lot of plants of the same type, this is an effective way for new plants to grow.

Do wasps pollinate more than bees?

Bees are known as the leading insects for pollination. But in some cases, wasps are more capable pollinators than bees.
Wasps do not choose between flowers and visit more flowers for nectar, so it is likely that if there are several plants of the same type around, they will be better at pollinating.

Do wasps pollinate apple trees?

Yes, studies have shown that apart from bees, wasps are also excellent pollinators of apples.
Horticulturalists know that the presence of pollinators improves both the yield and the size of the apple crop they receive
This is why they encourage bees and wasps to be around their gardens.

Should you get rid of wasps?

Wasps are often considered a hazard to humans due to their ability to deliver painful stings.
However, if you have a garden, you should not get rid of wasps completely, as they are an effective form of pest control and help in pollination.
You should consider getting rid of wasps if you suspect any major infestation or find them indoors.

Do Wasps Pollinate? Exploring The Role of These Beneficial Insects

Conclusion

As scary as they may seem, wasps can be true friends of your flowers. So it might be a good idea to let them hang out in your garden, as long as they are not chasing you in swarms.

Thank you for reading! 

Reader Emails

If you don’t trust the evidence that we presented above, read about several real-life examples of the role of wasps in pollination from the letters written by our readers over the years.

Letter 1 – Homopteran and Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Thorn mimic?
Hi What’s That Bug,
I’m pretty good with identifying bugs in my backyard, but this one has me stumped. I found it on my washing, and was only able to get the one shot before it vanished. The closest Google can get me is a “Thorn-mimic Tree-hopper” but (a) they’re not meant to be here in Australia and (b) I can’t find any info about them whatsoever! Any help you can give would be much appreciated. Also, something else for your site: a (female) Australian wingless flower wasp.
Cheers,
Jennifer

Tree Hopper Flower Wasp


Hi Jennifer,
Your unknown Homopteran is one of the Tree Hoppers, many of which mimic thorns. Perhaps it is an introduced species. We love your photo of the flightless Flower Wasp. Eric Eaton added this information: ” The flightless flower wasp is likely a female tiphiid wasp (family Tiphiidae) of some kind, though I’ve never seen a metallic one!”

Hi! First of all I have a postive ID for one of your pix The “wingless flower wasp” is Diamma bicolor see the wiki page here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_ant.
Peter

Update: (01/11/2007)
Dear Bugman,
I enjoyed visiting your site. It really doesn’t compete with BugGuide.net, since you have posted lots of foreign insects that they bar from that site. For example, you have some really nice photos of the primitive treehopper Aetalion (which is tropical). I thought you might like to know about the following:
(2) The “Thorn mimic” from Australia is actually a spittle bug (which they call a froghopper) of the genus Philagra.
Thanks for helping to spread an interest in Homoptera. We need to encourage the amateur.
Andy Hamilton

Update: November 21, 2010
We have just re-identified this beauty on a posting today as a Blue Ant,
Diamma bicolor, and you may see more information on Oz Animals.

Letter 2 – Frog Hopper and Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Thorn mimic?
Hi What’s That Bug,
I’m pretty good with identifying bugs in my backyard, but this one has me stumped. I found it on my washing, and was only able to get the one shot before it vanished. The closest Google can get me is a “Thorn-mimic Tree-hopper” but (a) they’re not meant to be here in Australia and (b) I can’t find any info about them whatsoever! Any help you can give would be much appreciated. Also, something else for your site: a (female) Australian wingless flower wasp.
Cheers,
Jennifer

Tree Hopper Flower Wasp


Hi Jennifer,
Your unknown Homopteran is one of the Tree Hoppers, many of which mimic thorns. Perhaps it is an introduced species. We love your photo of the flightless Flower Wasp. Eric Eaton added this information: ” The flightless flower wasp is likely a female tiphiid wasp (family Tiphiidae) of some kind, though I’ve never seen a metallic one!”

Hi! First of all I have a postive ID for one of your pix The “wingless flower wasp” is Diamma bicolor see the wiki page here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_ant.
Peter

Update: (01/11/2007)
Dear Bugman,
I enjoyed visiting your site. It really doesn’t compete with BugGuide.net, since you have posted lots of foreign insects that they bar from that site. For example, you have some really nice photos of the primitive treehopper Aetalion (which is tropical). I thought you might like to know about the following:
(2) The “Thorn mimic” from Australia is actually a spittle bug (which they call a froghopper) of the genus Philagra.
Thanks for helping to spread an interest in Homoptera. We need to encourage the amateur.
Andy Hamilton

Letter 3 – Flower Wasp from Mexico

 

Sidekick: Magnificent Peculiar Stripey Flying
Friend from Sierra Madre
(1) Our eternal gratitude – the mystery of Giant Mesquite
Bug aka Madame Stripey Socks had been preoccupying a great
deal of our limited brain space…and what with the current
global epidemic [dearth] of functional brains, it’s a mitzvah
you’ve done, and we can now reallocate those resources.
(2) We fear we must once again impinge on your intellectual
generosity and lay a new enigma at your capable feet: who
is Madame Stripey’s sidekick, the elusive Magnificent Peculiar
Stripey Flying Friend from the Sierra Madre?!?!
Quintan

Hi Again Quintan,
We do declare that your colorful language has been an instumental
factor in selecting your submissions for posting. There truly
is a dearth of functional brains if recent television coverage
is any indication. We are somewhat certain this is one of
the Scoliid Wasps, sometimes called Flower Wasps. There are
several US genera posted on BugGuide with similar looking
representatives. Campsomeris
and Scolia
are two possibilities. Adult Scoliid Wasps take nectar from
flowers and larvae are parasites of ground dwelling Scarab
Beetle grubs. The following are BugGuide’s list of identifying
features for Scoliid Wasps: “Robust wasps, medium-sized to
large. Distal part of wings have length-wise wrinkles. Bodies
hairy. Underneath, mesosternum and metasternum divided by
a transverse suture. Basal segments of rear legs (hind coxae)
well-separated. Usually dark-colored, often with light marks
(yellow or white) on abdomen.”

Thank you! We hereby vow to only rarely bug you again and yet in parting beseech you: please have mercy on our soul and correct our painful spelling error (dearth rather than dirth). We were watching certain television coverage that caused what i could only call The Empire Virus to momentarily dismantle our command of the English language.
A subtle correction – or, in lieu, an erratum — would place us ever more deeply in steadfast devotion to your artistry.
Sincerely,
Quintan Wikswo

Hi again Quintan,
Anyone who correctly uses the word erratum deserves the benefit of a correction request, albeit with brackets inserted. You would be depriving our reading public if you withhold your high quality photographs and witty comments, so we would request that you submit any “bug” images our way that you think would enhance our site. Eric Eaton has written us back to confirm that your photo is a Scoliid Wasp. Good luck with processing the many mind-numbingly irrational comments, opinions and sound bytes that we will no doubt be subject to prior to Election Day. We will be struggling to maintain our own sanity with the contradictory mixed messages and double standards that result from blind ferver. Our only hope is that we as a country make the right choice. We all understand how important it is to have a right to choose.

Letter 4 – Wingless Female Flower Wasp from Tasmania

 

Some sort of Hymenoptera from Tasmania, Aus.
October 31, 2009
On a recent trip to the apple isle (Tasmania) my girlfriend and I snapped this little beauty. I found it crawling around in the sand at the boundary between a beach and dry sclerophyll in Freycinet National park on the east coast. It looks terribly vicious but it didn’t seem to mind being picked up. This was in January which means mid summer in Australia. (although it doesn’t get real hot in Tasmania)
Hope that info is enough to narrow it down.
Thanks guys!
Jish from Newcastle
Freycinet national park, Tasmania, Australia

Wingless Flower Wasp from Tasmania
Wingless Flower Wasp from Tasmania

Hi Jish,
We located some images on the Brisbane Insect Website of wingless female Flower Wasps in the family Tiphiidae, but the patters were nothing like your specimen.  We doubted our research, and requested assistance from Eric Eaton.  He quickly responded.  Seems we overlooked the image when we searched.

Wingless Flower Wasp from Tasmania
Wingless Flower Wasp from Tasmania

Daniel:
It is a wingless female wasp in the family Tiphiidae, possibly genus Catocheilus, as I found on the “Brisbane Insects” website.  Neat find, great image!
Eric

Letter 5 – Flower Wasp

 

Black wasp with two orange bands on abdomen
Location:  Mission, Hidalgo Co., Texas
September 27, 2010 10:23 pm
Can you put a name on this wasp?
Thanks
Signature:  Jan Dauphin

Flower Wasp

Hi Jan,
We have identified your wasp as
Campsomeris ephippium, a Flower Wasp in the family Scoliidae.  Female wasps in the genus Campsomeris provision the nest with scarab beetle grubs to feed the larvae.  All the reports of this species on BugGuide are from Texas.  We also have a previous posting of this species which we called a Scarab Hunter Wasp, and it was also found in Texas.

Thank you, thank you so very much!
Jan Dauphin
Mission, TX
To view my photos or for Valley wildlife info.,
go to http://www.thedauphins.net

Letter 6 – Flower Wasp

 

Possible Scollid Wasp
Location:  Brazos Bend State Park, Needville, TX
October 7, 2010 7:10 am
I’m thought at first that this was Scolia bicinta, but it has 3 bands rather than 2. There were several on these white flowers, along with lots of S. dubia. Can you tell me what it is?
Thanks
Signature:  H. Glen Kilgore

Flower Wasp

Dear H. Glen,
WE agree with your identification.  Your specimen perfectly matches an image posted to BugGuide of
Scolia bicincta.  Scoliid Wasps are commonly called Flower Wasps and the females prey upon the grubs of June Beetles which are parasitized by the larval wasps.

Letter 7 – Flower Wasp from Australia

 

What wasp is this?
Location: Wollongong
November 10, 2010 9:33 pm
We have wasps?? feeding on our tea trees in the garden. I have tried to identify this but the marking differ from the available resources.
Signature: Rob

Flower Wasp we believe

Dear Rob,
We spent a bit of time researching this and though we have not found a perfect match, we believe with some certainty that this is a Flower Wasp in the family Tiphiidae.  We started our search where we generally start with Australian insects, on the Brisbane Insect website.  There are some similarities to the images of the Yellow Flower Wasp in the genus
Agruimyia that is pictured on the Brisbane Insect website, but the markings are very different.  There is an unidentified Flower Wasp at the bottom of the family page on the Brisbane Insect Website, and the markings are totally different, but the body structure and wing veinage seem similar.  The What Bug is That? Australian website has a head on view of a Flower Wasp feeding on the blossoms of the tea tree that is probably the closest visual match we have found.  There is a photo of a mounted specimen of Thynnus zonatus on a Tasmanian government website that also bears a resemblance to your wasp, so we did a search on that genus and hit paydirt with a photo tentatively identified as Thynnus apterus on RedBubble.  Your wasp is nearly identical to the male wasp on RedBubble and photographer posted this comment:  “This is a wingless Female Flower Wasp but I’m actually not sure of this species. Brisbane Insects have a shot and speculate Catocheilus sp., (synonym: Hemithynnus sp.). But I’ve found something close on the WA Ag Dept ICDB Specimen Images that seems close to Thynnus apterus? If anyone knows let me know. (see accompanying shots) Now the story.
I was out in the middle of the day hope to find some nice reptiles or insects and was following an Owl Fly when I saw this lady come out of the sandy soil and climb up the nearest shrub. As she reached the top I heard a buzz past my ear and a yellow headed winged male landed on her (I moved away a bit at this stage having a healthy respect for “flying” wasps!!!). After a quick pash they were copulating and he flew off carrying the wingless female. From the time she emerged from the soil, set off her pheromones and was carried away on her honeymoon the whole episode to less than a minute and a half. Talk about a whirlwind romance with his child bride!!!!
”  The photos were taken at Emerald Beach in New South Wales, the same state as your city of Wollongong.  Most of the wasps in this group in Australia have wingless females and the winged males fly about with the females attached during the mating process. Just to create additional confusion, when we did an image search for Thynnus apterus, a nearly identical image of a mounted specimen identified as Agriomyia maculata (flower wasp) popped up from the entomology collection of an Australian museum.   After an hour, we thought this is enough research for now.  We are confident that you have a Flower Wasp in the family Tiphiidae, which may be either Thynnus apterus or Agriomyia maculata, or the two names may be synonymous for the same species.

Ed Note:  April 4, 2013
We returned from a holiday and found a slew of mail, including this correction with the explanation that the family has now been split because of DNA analysis.  DNA analysis is now revolutionizing entomology, and we are a bit sad that observations are now not enough for conclusive species identification.  “Dead and spread” to quote Julian Donahue now seems to be the only way we mere humans will ever know for sure if the taxonomy is correct until the next new revolution in attempting to understand the complexity of life on our planet is discovered.

Correction:  April 4, 2013
Hi Bugman,
It should read now Thynnidae.
Regards,
Dr Graham Brown
Consultant Insect Taxonomist

Letter 8 – Blue Ant from Tasmania is flightless female Flower Wasp

 

Unknown bug
Location: Deloraine Tasmania
November 21, 2010 9:28 pm
Hi there
I have this strange ant in my back yard its about an inch long and i only ever see one by itself
Signature: Anne Bailey

Blue Ant

Hi Anne,
Even though it is called a Blue Ant, this flightless female wasp is a Flower Wasp in the family Tiphiidae.  The Blue Ant is
Diamma bicolor, and we found wonderful information on Oz Animals.  Here is the text from Oz Animals:  “Identification  Blue Ants are not ants at all but the wingless females of a species of Flower Wasp. The female is has a glossy blue green body with reddish legs. They move across the ground with a rapid restless motion with abdomen raised above the ground. The winged male and is slender and much smaller with more typical wasp appearance. Males have black with white spots on the abdomen. The female wasps paralyse mole crickets as food for their larvae. The female wasp can give a painful sting if disturbed, but they are not commonly encountered by people.
Size  length: females 23mm, males 15mm
Food  Adults feed on nectar.
Breeding  Blue Ants are parasitic wasps and lay their eggs on mole crickets. The female wasp runs over the ground like an ant looking for a mole cricket to parasitise. She paralyses the mole crickets with a sting and lay an egg on it. When the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the cricket.
Range  Blue Ants are found in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Letter 9 – Flightless Female Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Half Ant, Half Caterpillar?

Flightless Female Flower Wasp

Half Ant, Half Caterpillar?
Location: Spoon Bay Lookout, NSW, Australia
December 28, 2010 5:07 am
Hello bugman!
I went to a lookout to take some photos (I love my photography) at a lookout over Spoon Bay near Forrester’s Beach in NSW. Behind me crawling on the wooden deck of the lookout was a very strange and unique insect, with the head, and upper body of a large ant, and the lower half appeared to be a spotted caterpillar abdomen. What I thought anyway. I happened, and was lucky enough, to have my macro lens with me to take a few shots.
I’ve never seen anything like it, would you be able to enlighten me with the title and description of this insect?
Signature: From Cassy

Flightless Female Flower Wasp

Dear Cassy,
We are quite excited to be able to post your excellent images.  In early November of this year, we posted an image of a Wasp from Wollongong that we identified as a male Flower Wasp in the family Tiphiidae, and during that search, we found a photo of a flightless female Flower Wasp tentatively identified as Thynnus apterus on Red Bubble.  That individual was photographed during the mating ritual at Emerald Beach, New South Wales.  In November 2009, we posted a photo from Tasmania that is very similar to your photo and that Eric Eaton identified as a flightless female Flower Wasp, possibly in the genus
Catocheilus.  So, while we are confident that this is a flightless female Flower Wasp in the family Tiphiidae, we are still not able to provide a conclusive identification.  Perhaps one of our readers can provide a reliable link with a conclusive identification for this marvelous flightless female Flower Wasp.

Flightless Female Flower Wasp

Letter 10 – Flightless Female Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Subject: What is this?!
Location: Woy woy, NSW. 2257 AUSTRALIA
October 4, 2012 7:08 am
I’m from Australia so I don’t know if you will be able to identify this ant looking thing
Was found crawling along wood in my friends dads backyard shed.
I’ve searched and searched and can’t find a thing about it!
Are you able to help?
Signature: Katie Wright

Flower Wasp

Hi Katie,
This is a flightless female Flower Wasp.

Letter 11 – Flightless Female Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Subject: Unknown bug ….to me!
Location: See letter above:  Tootgarook on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia
November 30, 2013 10:54 pm
Hi, my name is Annie. On November 28, 2013 , at 3.50 pm, I noticed this bug on my plant. I have never seen it before and some research work came up with nothing similar at all. I posted a photo on Instagram in the hope someone could tell me, but so far no one does, even though several people have joint me in the research, lol! The back part of its body is bright yellow and black, and it appears to have some water blisters on it’s back., not rain drops as it was a dry and sunny day. The front part of its body is a reddish-dark brown and shiny, it has hairs all over its legs and upper body, and it reared up as in self-defence when I came closer. This bug was found in my garden in Tootgarook on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia . The photo I included is taken with a zoom lens, and is pretty much enlarged to its full capacity. Hope it is still good enough for you to identify this bug, lol! Thank you so much for your willingness to look into this kind of things, it is quite fascinating to get to know bugs better!
Kind regards: Annie.
Signature: Annie J Den Boer

Flightless Female Flower Wasp:  Thynnus species
Flightless Female Flower Wasp: Thynnus species

Dear Annie,
We have several similar images in our archives very similar to this creature, and in 2010, we did significant research and we thought we had identified a photo as a Flightless Female Flower Wasp,
Thynnus apterus.  We are not entirely certain the species is correct, but we are relatively confident with the genus.  Today we found a photo of a mounted pair of Thynnus brenchleyi on the Agriculture of Western Australia website that confirms the genus, if not the species.  There is no female Thynnus apterus pictured on Agriculture of Western Australia.

Dear Daniel.
Thank you so very much for this quick reply! I think the two compare well, although I have to admit that the one I photographed has more and also brighter yellow on the top of its back, but that could possibly have to do with age and/or variety, and quality of the photo!
I am very happy to be able to let this student in America know and tell him your website and the one of Agriculture of Western Australia, so he can have a look for himself.
Again, thank you so very much for your help, it is much appreciated,
With kind regards: Annie j Den Boer.

Letter 12 – Male Flower Wasp

 

Subject:  Male Flower Wasp
Location: Oldbury Western Australia
January 31, 2015
Meanwhile I have a couple of pics of an identified wasp for your collection, that I will attach to this mail if you are interested, as a thank you.  I see you have a pic of the female, but didn’t see one of the male.  This is a male flower wasp from the family Tiphiidae as identified by the Western Australian Museum.  I fished him out of my dog’s water bowl.
Best regards,
Jill

Male Flower Wasp
Male Flower Wasp

Dear Jill,
We have created a distinct posting for your male Flower Wasp images, and we are thrilled that you submitted them.  We do have one additional image of a male Flower Wasp in the family Tiphidae from Australia, and that individual is from Wollongong.  Because of your kindness fishing this harmless creature from your dog’s water bowl, we are tagging the posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award

Flower Wasp
Flower Wasp

Thanks for the most honourable award Daniel.  Of course I love nature, so am actually a great crusader for saving creatures of all description.  The warm happy feeling I get from saving a life, no matter how inconsequential to some people, is reward enough. : )
I was really impressed with my son the other day, who had a huntsman spider run across his chest.. this scared the crap out of him (and no doubt also the spider), but rather than bang her on the head, he found a mop and coaxed her on board and took her outside to live out her days.  I was very happy that I probably have influenced his kindness and understanding of nature. : )
I will stick to one bug at a time in submission in future as requested.
Thanks again for everything.  You have a wonderful website.
Best regards,
Jill

Letter 13 – Flower Wasp from Jamaica

 

Subject: Beautiful blue/black wasp
Location: Jamaica
November 29, 2015 9:58 pm
This looks like a Blue Flower Wasp (Scolia soror) which is native to Australia but I’m not sure because I saw it in Jamaica. It also looks similar to Blue Mud Wasp (Chalybion californicum) and Blue Mud Dauber (Chlorion aerarium) and even Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus). It doesn’t appear to have a narrow waist from the photos I took. It is so beautiful – I want to post it on our website and would love to know the correct name before posting.
Thank you for your assistance!
Signature: Jean C

Flower Wasp
Flower Wasp

Dear Jean,
We agree with your initial impulse that this is a Flower Wasp in the family Scoliidae, and the Blue Flower Wasp that you cited is a member of a genus also found in the New World.  BugGuide lists five species in North America, and notes that there are seven species reported from North America.  The species on BugGuide that looks the most like your individual is 
Scolia mexicana, which is only listed from Arizona, but if its range extends into Mexico and Central America, it might actually be your species.  Alas, the best we are able to do is speculate that it is a Scolia species.

Flower Wasp
Flower Wasp

Dear Daniel,
Thank you so much for your reply!  I really appreciate it.  I thought getting an answer was a long shot but figured it was worth a try. I feel more confident now that I at least know the species.
Jean

Letter 14 – Ant from Australia

 

Subject: is this an ant or flower wasp
Location: joondalup, perth western australia
December 3, 2015 4:07 pm
Hey
I am new to the ant keeping workd and found this bug not sure if it is a wasp or ant hopefully you might be able to help.
Thanks
Dave
Signature: david bandy

Flightless Female Flower Wasp
Ant

Hi Dave,
We certainly are getting plenty of Australian sightings now that your summer is approaching.  This sure looks like the same species of flightless, female Flower Wasp in the family Tiphiidae pictured on the Australian Museum website where it states:  “The body of female flower wasps is adapted for digging.”

Correction:  Ant not Wasp
We received a comment correcting our identification.  Seems this is an Ant in the subfamily Ponerinae.

Letter 15 – Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Subject: Flower Wasp ID?
Location: Blyth, SA
December 25, 2015 8:13 pm
Can you a specific ID for this wasp. Just turned up 130km north of Adelaide – about 8 of them. Dec 2015. Thanks for your help. Lovely little creature & seems oblivious to us – was burrowng in sand & bark litter.
Signature: Ian Roberts

Blue Flower Wasp
Flower Wasp

Hi Ian,
This is definitely a Flower Wasp or Mammoth Wasp in the family Scoliidae.  It looks very similar to this individual we believe we correctly identified as a Blue Flower Wasp,
Scolia (Discolia) verticalis.  There is a similarly marked individual on Bold Systems, and this FlickR posting from Western Australia looks like your individual, but it is only identified to the genus level.  Bower Bird has a Flower Wasp identified as Laeviscolia frontalis that has the two spots evident on the abdomen of your individual, and an image on Ipernity supports that ID, but another image on Bower Bird does not appear to have the yellow color near the head.  So, we cannot be certain of the species, but we are confident with the family Scoliidae.

Hi Daniel
Thanks for that – nice to have them zipping around.
Regards
Ian Roberts

Letter 16 – Female Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Subject: Flower wasp female
Location: Fremantle, WA
August 15, 2016 6:53 pm
G’day bugman
Thought I’d share this picture of what a friend has helped me identify as a female flower wasp (confirmed from your website). I saw her on the wall of my house in Fremantle, WA.
I haven’t found another image on the net of one with quite the same bright golden colour.
Signature: Hugh

Female Flower Wasp
Female Flower Wasp

Dear Hugh,
Wow, what an awesome image.  We located a four year old posting on our site of a similar looking, but not exact match visually, female Flower Wasp in our archive, and we are going to do some fresh research to try to determine the identity of your particular species.  We located a pretty good visual match on Ant Blog, and the following information is provided:  “This particular specimen is a female Thynnine wasp. All female species of the subfamily Thynninae are wingless and can often be seen scaling an elevated structure like a flower or a tree (or in your case, a fence) in order to catch the attention of a passing male. Unlike females, Tiphiid males do have wings and will literally sweep the receptive female off her feet for an extended in-flight mating ritual that also involves treating the female to several easy meals along the way (flower nectar being much more accessible from the air).  Winglessness in female tiphiid wasps finally proves useful when, after mating, the gravid female must burrow underground to find a suitable repository for her eggs, namely scarab beetle larvae. Interestingly, winglessness or brachyptery (reduced wings) in wasps often goes hand in hand with this kind of parasitism and occurs in at least eight other wasp families. This frequently leads to confusion with ants.”  An even closer visual match is on Esperance Wildlife where it is identified as being in the genus
Hemithynnus and this information is provided:  “Wasps in the Tiphiidae family are generally known as Flower Wasps as the adults feed on the nectar of various flowers. It is a large family that is represented in Australia by 3 sub-families, two of which both the male and female wasps have wings, but in the third Thynninae, the female is wingless and is carried about or otherwise feed by the much larger winged male.  The male thynnine wasps are attracted to the females when she releases a pheromone to indicate she is ready to mate. It is interesting to note that many plants, particularly orchids mimic this pheromone to attract the male wasp, who inadvertently pollinates them when they grasp the labellum, which they think is the female. However most of these wasps would be much smaller than this species (probably a Hemithynnus sp.) that is over 3 cm (11/4”) in length (excluding antennae), so a little large for most orchid flowers. The wingless female above (which may not be the same species) is about a third the size of the male.  These wasps are parasitic on the larvae of burrowing scarab beetles, whereby after mating the wingless female digs into the soil to locate them and will then lay at least one egg on each. They must encounter a number, as they are reasonably common in the Esperance (near coastal) sandy heath from November to January. “

Awesome, thas for the info. Very interesting. All I can say is that I’m glad I’m not a scarab beetle larva!
Love your site by the way.
Regards
Hugh

Letter 17 – Bachelor Party of Flower Wasps in Australia

 

Subject:  Some Type of Wasp
Geographic location of the bug:  Berrima NSW Australia
Date: 12/10/2017
Time: 02:11 AM EDT
Hi, I found a group of these bugs all collected together on some moss. And though I have looked everywhere I cannot identify. I have included a photo of how i originally found them and then one separated. Could you please help me? Thank you so much.
How you want your letter signed:  Celia

Male Flower Wasp

Dear Celia,
We believe this is a male Flower Wasp in the family Tiphiidae, and the aggregation is a common behavioral activity that male Flower Wasps and certain other solitary Hymenopterans engage in, and it is commonly called a bachelor party.  Male Flower Wasps often congregate in large numbers and “roost” on plants as evening approaches.  You may read more about Australian Flower Wasps on the Brisbane Insect site.

Bachelor Party of Flower Wasps

Letter 18 – Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Subject:  Black wasp with 4 yellow dots
Geographic location of the bug:  South Australia, Elizabeth
Date: 01/31/2018
Time: 07:59 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this wasp on my driveway and can’t find any relating pictures of it online. Do you know what it is?
How you want your letter signed:  Naiomi

Flower Wasp

Dear Naiomi,
This looks to us like a Flower Wasp in the family Scoliidae, similar to this individual posted to FlickR, or this individual also posted to FlickR.

Flower Wasp

Letter 19 – Unknown Flower Wasp from India

 

Subject:  Some kind of Wasp
Geographic location of the bug:  Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Date: 07/25/2018
Time: 10:41 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I tried to find this bug  by using many possible search tags. I found this bee in the lungs of Mumbai City, i.e. Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It is in the State of Maharashtra, India.
How you want your letter signed:  Gaurav Iswalkar

Blue-Black Flower Wasp

Dear Gaurav,
Though we have not had any luck locating any matching images from India, we are confident this is a Scarab Hunter Wasp or Flower Wasp from the family Scoliidae.  The family members are described on the North American site BugGuide as “Robust, hairy, medium-sized to large.”  Then we found matching images on the Nature, Cultural, and Travel Photography Blog with a focus on Pakistan, but alas, it is only identified to the family level.  The site states:  “The Flower Wasp here is commonly know as Blue-black Flower Wasp or Hairy Flower Wasp belong to family Scoliidae. It has a black hairy body, orange colored antennae and shiny blue wings. The adult wasp feeds upon nectar and thus helps in pollination. The larvae act as important bio-control agents, feeding upon beetle larvae in the ground.”

Hi Daniel,
Thank you for the information as it was the closest and most accurate one till now … You are doing the great job and I would love to support you guys in any ways possible from my end.
Regards,
Gaurav Iswalkar

Letter 20 – Hairy Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Subject:  What the heck is this?
Geographic location of the bug:  Paralowie, south australia
Date: 01/24/2019
Time: 03:52 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this bug and did a quick google and it looks like a blue winged wasp which is from America. I’m in Australia! Surely I’m wrong.
How you want your letter signed:  lysieebear

Hairy Flower Wasp

Dear lysieebear,
This is a Hairy Flower Wasp in the family Scoliidae, the same family as the North American Blue Winged Wasp, hence their similarity in appearance.  We located a similar individual on FlickR, but it is only identified to the family level.  Thanks to the Atlas of Living Australia, we believe we have identified your individual as
Laeviscolia frontalis frontalis.

Letter 21 – Hairy Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Subject:  Looks like large bee or wasp
Geographic location of the bug:  Windsor. Nsw. Australia
Date: 09/13/2019
Time: 03:30 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi. Just saw this huge bee or wasp. Never seen this bug before. Should i report it?
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks Kim

Hairy Flower Wasp

Dear Kim,
We recognized your Wasp as a member of the family Scoliidae, and we quickly identified it as a Hairy Flower Wasp thanks to images on Backyard Buddies where it states:  “Hairy Flower Wasps are great for your garden. After mating, the female digs into the soil and finds a grub or beetle. She paralyses it temporarily and lays her egg in it. As the larva grows, it uses the host as food. Because of this, Hairy Flower Wasps and their larvae will help your garden by keeping your grub and beetle numbers down.”  According to Esperance Fauna:  “They are solitary insects without a nest, as the female lays a single egg on a paralysed and insensitised (stung) scarab beetle larvae, leaving it to hatch and consume the host. Because these wasps have no nest to protect and fortunately for people are not aggressive and will only sting if physically interfered with.” 

Letter 22 – Hairy Flower Wasp from Australia

 

Subject:  What is it
Geographic location of the bug:  Yarra glen 3775
Date: 03/24/2020
Time: 12:50 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Whats this bug please
How you want your letter signed:  Jen

Hairy Flower Wasp

Dear Jen,
This is a Flower Wasp or Scarab Hunter in the family Scoliidae, and based on the image posted to Museum Victoria Collections, we are relatively confident it is the Hairy Flower Wasp,
Austroscolia soror.  The site states:  “Austroscolia soror (previously in the genus Scolia is the most frequently seen species of Flower Wasp found in Victoria back yards. During the summer months Museums Victoria’s Discovery Centre receives many enquiries from people who are curious about a largish blue wasp. These wasps are usually identified as this species. These wasps will most likely be seen flying just above ground level and in particular flying near or around compost heaps, wood heaps or dead stumps of trees where the female wasps are looking for beetle larvae, (usually scarab beetles but sometimes weevils). Unlike the European Honeybee, European Wasp, and some native species, the Hairy Flower Wasps do not make a nest or form colonies. If several are seen flying around a compost heap or tree stump it simply means that several wasps are investigating for beetle larvae at the same time. The wasps are strong burrowers and when they find a beetle larva they sting and paralyse it and lay an egg on it. On hatching the young wasp has a live, paralysed food source waiting for it. Adult Hairy Flower Wasps drink nectar and so are frequent visitors to flowers where their size and colour make them easy to see when sitting on a flower. Nectar provides them with food energy in the form of sugars that they use to power their wing muscles. Hairy Flower Wasps do possess a sting, but they do not have a communal hive to defend and so tend not to be aggressive.”  Here is an image from our archive with a female Hairy Flower Wasp and her Scarab grub prey.

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.

24 thoughts on “Do Wasps Pollinate? Exploring The Role of These Beneficial Insects”

  1. The wasp is currently know as Catocheilus apterus if it came from Wollongong (south of Sydney on the east coast). However this is a large complex of species each with a small distribution. The photo is of a male. The family is now considered to be Thynnidae, differing from Tiphiidae based on molecular data.

    Reply
  2. The common name goes back to at least the turn of the previous century for the family Thynnidae in Australia. This family was reduced to a subfamily within the Tiphiidae on 1949 but revived as a family and several other subfamilies added a few years ago on molecular data. As the Thynnidae of the early 1900s is now a subfamily Thynninae within the new Thynnidae the question arises as to whether the name should be applied to the family or subfamily. I’m inclined to apply the common name to the family as the second largest subfamily, the Anthoboscinae, was included within the Scoliidae pre 1949 and the common rname for these is hairy flower wasps. These two subfamilies are most diverse in Australia and the common name is in common usage here. I’ve seen comments elsewhere stating the common name flower wasp is only used rarely is wrong.

    Reply
  3. This is Catocheilus hyalinatus and is the only species of this genus described or known from Tasmania. It is part of the Catocheilus apterus complex of species.

    Reply
  4. I live in central Pennsylvania and these wasps are hovering over holes left in the ground by a skunk. From reading your posts, it seems accurate to your theory on larva feeding.

    Reply
  5. I’ve just seen one of these fantastic looking bugs in my garden in Aldershot, England. She hid in the grass pointing her back end up like a flower bud.

    Reply
  6. Found one in Salisbury East Adelaide yesterday. It was dead but have brought it in to try and identify it. Thanks for the blog. Really helped.

    Reply
  7. This is a species of Catocheilus and most likely undescribed. Thynnus apterus is a very old name and is a Sydney species. Most species now in Catocheilus were in Hemithynnus.

    Reply
  8. I have a picture of a flightless female flower wasp taken recently in the suburb of duncraig, originally had my best guess, but not overly confident that it was a future queen ant, a colleague identified it correctly using your site for confirmation,cheers

    Reply

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