Orange Potter Wasp provisions nest with Caterpillar in Australia

Subject: aussietrev Orange Potter Wasp stocking the Larder
Location: Nth Burnett. Queensland Australia
December 26, 2012 5:05 pm
Hi guys,
This Orange Potter has been busy for days building a large nest on an old pulley in my shed. Here she is shoving the second of two caterpillars into one of the chambers. The end of the caterpillar is pushed into the chamber and then she pushes it bit by bit until the entire caterpillar is inside, then quickly seals the chamber over. To her right is a freshly sealed chamber as well shown by the slightly paler disc of mud. At some stage in her foraging she has been in contact with a spider web and has a small spider hitching a ride on her leg.
Signature: Aussietrev

Orange Potter Wasp provisions nest with Caterpillar

Hi Trevor,
Thanks for sending your beautiful photo of a beautiful Potter Wasp provisioning her nest.  We found her identified on the Brisbane Insect website as the Orange Potter Wasp,
Eumenes latreilli.

Hi Daniel ,
A bit of extra information. Watching her build the next chamber and start to provision it, after inserting the first caterpillar and flying off to find a second, a small (I think tachinid) fly that had been sitting patiently nearby flew into the opening and, I assume, took advantage of her work to lay some eggs of its own.
I would think this would be a symbiotic relationship rather than parasitic of the wasp larvae as it would be doubtful the fly would be sufficiently strong to break out of the mud nest on its own. Probably share the caterpillar bodies until the wasp makes an escape hatch for them? What do you think? Have you heard of this behaviour before?

Thanks for the update Trevor.  Kleptoparasitism, or one insect (or other creature) stealing food that has been gathered by another, is common enough.  We can’t think of what the advantage of sharing food would have for the Potter Wasp. You are right that an adult Tachinid Fly  does not have the type of mouth that could chew its way out of the pot.  Let us know if a Wasp emerges from that particular chamber or if it remains as a sealed crypt.  Perhaps there is some enzyme or other substance secreted by the Tachinid Larva that makes it unpalatable to the Potter Wasp Larva to avoid being eaten.

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