Mexican Paper Wasp

Meet Mischocyttarus mexicanus, the Mexican paper wasp. This eusocial species has actually been extensively studied, because individual wasps employ different reproductive strategies over their lifetime, including nesting individually and as a colony, brood parasitism (with unrelated conspecifics) and usurpation. This “reproductive generalization” is unusual behavior. M. mexicanus can be found all over the southern United…

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…

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…