Parasitic Wasp and Gall

This is an interesting setup — this wasp is actually a parasite of a parasite. She’s walking over this tree gall, seeing if she can lay her eggs in any of the parasitic insects living inside the gall! Galls (rounded protrusions of trunk or stem) form on plants when (usually, larval) insects burrow inside. The…

Graceful Twig Ant

I’d been sitting on the above photo for a while, because the insect in it was winged; I seriously thought it was a wasp, but couldn’t find an exact match for species no matter how hard I tried. There was always something just not quite right. A couple days later, I was looking up some…

Acrobat Ant

I love encountering entirely new species! I had never heard of an acrobat ant before I got a photo of this little (3mm!) lady. Acrobat ants get their name from their ability to raise their abdomen over their thorax and head when disturbed (you can kind of see this one lifting her butt at me…

Southern Yellowjacket

This grumpy, chilly southern yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa) would not have let me get this photo if it hadn’t been 55 degrees F outside. She was sunning herself and did not appreciate being photographed; you can see her head turned toward me, and one foreleg half-raised in a very rude gesture. These social wasps are found…

Thread-Waisted Wasp

Originally I thought this was some sort of fly. Then I thought it was a wasp. Then I thought it was a wasp mimicking a fly. /r/insects didn’t know what it was. Months later, while searching for Polistes wasps on google, I scrolled past a picture of a similar species of sand-digger wasp, and —…

Paper Wasp

Paper wasps (Polistes sp.) are named because of the paper-like nests the queens build. They are members of the family Vespidae. Paper wasps are primitively eusocial, like bees. There are three castes: fertile queens, infertile female workers, and fertile males who do nothing but fertilize the queen. Founding queens sometimes start a nest in a…

Leafcutter Ants

A column of leafcutter ants (could be Atta sp., could be Acromyrmex sp.) — possibly the coolest thing I saw in Costa Maya, Mexico. They formed a column a foot wide and more than a hundred feet long, something I’d seen in a thousand documentaries and never in person. I could hear David Attenborough narrating…