The Steel Blue Cricket Hunter is a fascinating species of wasp that you may encounter in your backyard or during outdoor adventures. Known for their striking metallic blue appearance and intriguing behavior, these insects are both essential pollinators and fierce predators.
As their name suggests, these wasps have a particular affinity for hunting crickets. They are solitary creatures and don’t form colonies like some other wasp species. Despite their somewhat intimidating looks, they are generally not aggressive towards humans, stinging only when threatened or handled roughly.
Understanding the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter’s behavior, life cycle, and benefits to your local ecosystem can help you appreciate these stunning creatures. With this knowledge, you can feel more at ease when you come across them and even consider making your garden more inviting for these beneficial insects.
The Basics of Steel Blue Cricket Hunter
Class and Family
The Steel Blue Cricket Hunter belongs to the kingdom Animalia, phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, and order Hymenoptera. It is a species of wasp, specifically belonging to the family Sphecidae, known for their hunting and burrowing behaviors.
As the name suggests, this wasp exhibits a stunning steel-blue coloration. This iridescent hue not only makes it visually striking but also distinguishes it from other wasp species.
Size and Appearance
The Steel Blue Cricket Hunter is a medium-sized wasp, typically measuring around 0.5 to 0.75 inches (12 to 19 mm) in length. It has a slender body, with a narrow waist and elongated wings. Key features of its appearance include:
- Iridescent steel-blue coloration
- Prominent black eyes
- Curved antennae
- Long, narrow wings with a bluish tint
This wasp species can be found throughout North America, including the USA, Canada, and Mexico. Its range covers various habitats, from forests and grasslands to urban areas, showcasing its adaptability and resilience.
In summary, the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter is a fascinating species of wasp, known for its hunting prowess and striking coloration. Found throughout North America, it is an adaptable insect that continues to pique the interest of researchers and enthusiasts alike.
Hunting and Nesting Behavior
Prey and Hunting Methods
The Steel Blue Cricket Hunter (Chlorion aerarium) is a species of wasp known for its unique hunting behaviors. They primarily target crickets as their primary source of food. When hunting, the female wasp stings and paralyzes a cricket, rendering it incapable of fighting back or escaping. This method not only helps the wasp capture its prey more effectively but also ensures that the cricket remains alive and fresh for the wasp’s offspring.
When it comes to nesting, the female Steel Blue Cricket Hunter is quite particular. She excavates underground burrows in soft soil, typically in open areas with sparse vegetation. The burrows’ entrance is noticeable by a small mound of excavated soil. Once the burrow is complete, the female moves the paralyzed cricket inside. She then lays a single egg on the prey, ensuring a food source for her offspring when it hatches.
Here are some key features of the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter’s hunting and nesting behavior:
- Targets crickets as their primary prey
- Paralyzes crickets with a sting
- Creates underground nests in soft soil
- Lays a single egg on the paralyzed cricket
In conclusion, understanding the hunting and nesting behavior of the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter can be both fascinating and informative. By studying these creatures, you can gain a better appreciation of the complex world of insects and the unique strategies they employ for survival.
Life Cycle of The Wasp
From Egg to Adult
The life cycle of the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter Wasp begins with the egg stage. The female wasp captures and paralyzes crickets from the family Gryllidae, and places them in her burrowed cell, where she lays her eggs. Examples of prey include crickets from the genus Gryllus. These paralyzed crickets serve as a food source for the wasp larvae once they hatch.
After the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae will feed on the paralyzed crickets. As they grow, they continue to feed on the crickets until they are ready to pupate. Pupation often occurs inside the cell.
Mating and Reproduction
Adult Steel Blue Cricket Hunter Wasps typically emerge in the warmer months, like July. Once they have emerged, their primary focus is on mating and reproducing. You may find these wasps in various locations, from Mexico to parts of the United States.
After mating, the female wasp will start looking for a suitable location to build her nest. She will dig her nest using her spiny legs, creating cells to lay her eggs in. As she captures crickets, she will also ensure that there are no nearby ants, which pose a risk to the success of her mission.
To give you a brief comparison with another wasp species, the Cicada Killer, their life cycle is similar, but the main difference is that they feed on cicadas instead of crickets.
In conclusion, the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter Wasp has a fascinating life cycle. From egg to adult, these wasps play a vital role in controlling cricket populations and maintaining a balanced ecosystem.
Similar Insects and Distinguishing Characteristics
In this section, we’ll explore similar insects to the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter and their distinguishing characteristics, focusing on the Blue Mud Dauber and the Cicada Killer.
Blue Mud Dauber
Isodontia elegans, also known as the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, can be easily mixed up with the Blue Mud Dauber (Chalybion californicum). Though they share a striking blue color, there are some key differences that will help you identify them:
- Body shape: Blue Mud Daubers have a more slender, wasp-like appearance compared to the bulkier Steel Blue Cricket Hunter.
- Habitat: While both insects are found in North America, Blue Mud Daubers prefer to nest in sheltered locations, such as crevices or hollow tubes.
- Prey: Blue Mud Daubers mostly hunt spiders, whereas the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter preys on crickets.
Another insect that can be confused with the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter is the Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus). Here are some characteristics that can help you distinguish between the two:
- Color: Cicada Killers are predominantly black with yellow markings on the abdomen, while Steel Blue Cricket Hunters have a striking metallic blue color.
- Size: Cicada Killers are one of the largest wasps in North America, reaching an inch or more in length. Steel Blue Cricket Hunters are smaller, measuring 0.5 to 0.75 inches.
- Habitat: Cicada Killers build their burrows in sandy, well-drained soil, often in lawns and gardens.
- Prey: As the name implies, Cicada Killers hunt and feed on cicadas, while Steel Blue Cricket Hunters prey on crickets.
Here’s a comparison table to sum up the differences:
|Steel Blue Cricket Hunter
|Blue Mud Dauber
|Black with yellow markings
|0.5 to 0.75 inches
|Similar to Steel Blue
|1 inch or more
|Sandy, well-drained soil
By comparing these key characteristics, you can easily distinguish between the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, the Blue Mud Dauber, and the Cicada Killer.
Interaction with Humans
Misconceptions and Facts
There are a few misconceptions surrounding the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter. Some people might worry about their presence, but you should know that these wasps are generally harmless to humans. They are solitary insects, and unlike social wasps, they are not aggressive towards people unless they feel threatened.
Identifying Steel Blue Cricket Hunters is essential for you if you live in the U.S., as they are a common species found across the country. By learning about their distinct characteristics, you can easily distinguish them from more aggressive wasps that might pose a threat.
Identifying Steel Blue Cricket Hunters
The Steel Blue Cricket Hunter has some specific features to help you identify them. Here is a list of their characteristics:
- Metallic blue or green body color
- Large in size, usually between 1/2 to 3/4 inches long
- The wings have a dark smoky appearance, making them seem almost black
- They prey on crickets to feed their larvae, which often makes them noticeable in areas where crickets are abundant
By knowing these distinctive features, you can confidently identify Steel Blue Cricket Hunters in your surroundings and differentiate them from other wasps. It allows you to better appreciate their role in the ecosystem and avoid unnecessary fear or concern.
Remember, these wasps are generally not dangerous to humans, so you can coexist with them peacefully, appreciating their role in pest control while understanding that they pose minimal risk to you and your loved ones.
The Wasp’s Local Habitat
Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, belonging to the Sphecidae family, can be found in various habitats across the United States. They are commonly found in open areas such as meadows, where they have easy access to crickets for hunting. You might also spot these wasps in your backyard during late summer, around August.
Plant and Flower Preferences
These wasps, known for their iridescent blue wings, depend on nectar as their primary food source. To obtain nectar, they visit a diverse range of flowers and plants in their habitat. Here are some preferred flowers:
Since flowers provide nectar and serve as hunting grounds, planting these in your garden can attract Steel Blue Cricket Hunters. Just be careful if you’re allergic to wasps, as these solitary species can pack a painful sting if threatened.
So, in essence, Steel Blue Cricket Hunters can be found in habitats ranging from coast to coast, with a preference for open areas like meadows and a fondness for flowers that provide the nectar they need for sustenance. Creating a friendly habitat for them might help control cricket populations and contribute to the ecosystem’s balance.
Conservation Status and Importance in the Ecosystem
The Steel Blue Cricket Hunter (Chlorion aerarium) is a type of wasp that plays a crucial role in regulating the population of crickets, making them an important part of our ecosystem. Despite their often intimidating appearance, these wasps are actually considered solitary and non-aggressive towards humans.
They have unique hunting strategies that enable them to keep the cricket population in check. In this role, they serve as natural pest control, and directly benefit farmers and gardeners.
Steel Blue Cricket Hunter wasps have a fascinating method of capturing their prey. They immobilize crickets by stinging them, rendering them paralyzed but alive. They then transport their victims back to their underground nests, which are usually located in sandy, well-drained soil.
Within these nests, the female wasp lays her eggs on the still-living crickets. Once the larvae hatch, they feed on their cricket host, using it as a food source while they grow. This life cycle means Steel Blue Cricket Hunter wasps help control cricket populations instead of wiping them out completely.
By controlling the cricket population, Steel Blue Cricket Hunter wasps contribute to a balanced ecosystem. Crickets can cause significant damage to agricultural crops and gardens. By regulating their numbers, the wasps help:
- Protect crops and gardens from cricket infestations
- Reduce cricket overpopulation
- Maintain the delicate balance in the ecosystem by keeping prey numbers in check
So, when it comes to the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter wasps, you can appreciate their role in the ecosystem. You can recognize their importance as natural pest control, and acknowledge that these fascinating creatures are more friend than foe.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Steel Blue Cricket Hunter
Subject: Believe to be blue wasp
Location: chandler AZ
June 6, 2016 10:15 am
Thinking it’s a blue wasp or mud wasp; didn’t mind the photo shoot wasn’t aggressive at all/
This is one of the most beautiful images we have ever received of a Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, Chlorion aerarium, and the second image you provided where the Wasp is exiting the frame nicely illustrates the Thread Waist distinctive in the family Sphecidae. According to BugGuide: “Although generally not closely associated with humans, they are found wherever their hosts (Gryllus crickets) are found, which could include close proximity to homes … . Chlorion is usually found in open areas such as meadows, overgrown fields, dunes, beach edges, etc., although they may not necessarily hunt in the same habitat as they nest. ”
Thank you for the feedback I deeply appreciate it , I have to admit it is one of my favorite shots of the many I take around my yard. Please feel free to use the picture if you like.
Letter 2 – Steel Blue Cricket Hunter
Subject: Hey Bugman
Geographic location of the bug: Arizona
Time: 09:22 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I’m filming in southern Arizona and came across this wasp (?) pouncing on a cricket. It had the most vibrant, cobalt blue coloring, almost metallic in its sheen. It was about 1.5” in length.
So tell me: what’s that bug?!
How you want your letter signed: Tomás Arceo
You had nearly every word in this predator’s name in your letter. This is a Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, Chlorion aerarium, and it is a marvelous addition to our Food Chain tag. According to BugGuide: “Females mass-provision several serial cells, each containing from 2 to 9 nymphs or adults of Gryllus pennsylvanicus. Prey are transported on the ground, venter-up, with the wasp’s mandibles grasping the antennae of the cricket.”
Please do us a favor in the future and submit your images using our standard form that you can access by clicking the Ask WTB? link on our site, though we in no way want to discourage you from submitting such excellent images via normal email channels. Using our form makes it easier for us to create our postings in a uniform manner.
Letter 3 – Steel Blue Cricket Hunter
green flying bug
Location: Palm Springs, California
July 27, 2011 3:10 pm
This bug was recently seen in California, USA. It looks like an ant, but has wings. What is this please? Your help is greatly appreciated.
This beautiful was Chlorion aerarium, commonly called a Steel Blue Cricket Hunter. You can see photos of living specimens on BugGuide.
Letter 4 – Steel Blue Cricket Hunter
Are you a wasp?
Location: hills in Brea, CA 33°56’53.65”N 117°50’30.08”W
August 1, 2011 4:02 pm
On July 29th, 2011, at Scout Camp, we came across this wasp-like guy crawling in and out of holes. He was fairly non-aggressive as he let us get fairly close before he would chase us away. We’ve seen the little blackish/bluish wasp that dig into the ground before, but these guys were MUCH larger than those wasps and their heads are much bigger. The blue color is striking as well.My son and I love your site! So, we were wondering, is this in the wasp family? The head just didn’t seem like a typical wasp head.
Signature: Ron and Kevin
The Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, Chlorion aerarium, is indeed a Thread Waisted Wasp in the family Sphecidae. According to BugGuide: “Females mass-provision several serial cells, each containing from 2 to 9 nymphs or adults of Gryllus pennsylvanicus. Prey are transported on the ground, venter-up, with the wasp’s mandibles grasping the antennae of the cricket.” This really is a beautiful wasp.
Letter 5 – Steel Blue Cricket Hunter
Subject: Brilliant blue insect
Location: San Diego, CA 92129
July 19, 2014 3:50 pm
My six year old daughter showed me a brilliant blue insect carcass in our San Diego backyard (Rancho Penasquitos area) that I was unable to identify. At first, I was thinking it was a type of cuckoo wasp, but I’ve been unable to find any photograph that matches its appearance. The insect was about an inch long. If you can help identify it, I’d be grateful.
Signature: M. Yasuda
Dear M. Yasuda,
Our suspicions that this was a Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, Chlorion aerarium, started to dissipate when we realized that none of the examples posted to BugGuide had coloring this intense. The closest is this Bugguide image of a Steel Blue Cricket Hunter from Los Angeles. Then we located this excellent match on Project Noah.
Excellent! Daniel, thanks so much for your quick and informed response.
Letter 6 – Steel Blue Cricket Hunter
Subject: Ground wasp?
Location: Grand Junctoon , CO
August 7, 2015 3:22 pm
We have an interesting wasp that is excavating a small hole in a crack in the driveway. He does not seem aggressive ….similar in behavior to a cicada killer.
This sure looks like a Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, Chlorion aerarium, to us, and we believe SHE is making a subterranean nest that she will provision with Crickets for her brood. See BugGuide for more information on the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter.
Letter 7 – Steel Blue Cricket Hunter
Subject: What is this blue thin but large looking beetle
Geographic location of the bug: Santa Clarita CA
Time: 12:30 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Can you identify? About 3+ inches long and on the “slender” vs. full beetle shape
How you want your letter signed: Kat
This is not a Beetle. It is a Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, Chlorion aerarium, a Wasp in the family Sphecidae. According to BugGuide: “Although generally not closely associated with humans, they are found wherever their hosts (Gryllus crickets) are found, which could include close proximity to homes.” We believe “3+ inches long” is an exaggeration, as BugGuide states: “~25 mm.”
Letter 8 – Steel Blue Cricket Hunter: Dead with white eyes
Subject: blue bee??
Location: Palm Springs, CA
August 15, 2015 12:01 am
This is a pretty poor picture due to the fact that a spider got to this bug first. Its brilliant blue color and huge white eyes really caught my attention. I don’t know if this is a fly or a bee but I’ve never seen one like it before. It was about three quarters of an inch long.
Thread-Waist Wasp, not Bee.
Thanks Daniel! Found one blue one in Google images, though none with white eyes.
Hi Again Gehr,
We wrote to Eric Eaton to get his opinion on this matter and this is what he wrote back:
Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, Chlorion aerarium. I suspect death has something to do with the white eyes. 🙂 Maybe the spider sucked them dry. No, seriously.
Thanks for the update! I agree, definitely most likely the Cricket Hunter. Interestingly, one Google image I found had one with the white eyes. I suppose could be due to dehydration a la arachnid!