Today at Kingsford – Ichneumonid wasp

Ichneumonid wasp

Raven was a bundle of energy today, so I ended up breaking from work a bit earlier than usual to take her out for a walk and hopefully tire her out enough that she’d sleep through the afternoon and let me get a few hours of solid worktime in. I took her out to the woods so she could run around off-leash for a bit, which burns more energy than simply walking on a leash along the road. Upon reaching the woods I sat her down to unclip the leash (an exercise in patience and discipline more than a requirement for getting the leash off), and noticed, on the ground between her front paws, this wasp. I steered her around it to prevent her from accidentally crushing it, and then while she scamped off to roll in the leaves a short distance away, I squatted down and ran off a few shots.

It’s a parasitic wasp of the family Ichneumonidae (drop the “ae” from the end to give the common name, ichneumonid wasps), subfamily Ichneumoninae. This subfamily is the second-largest of the ichneumonids, and among the most diverse. These wasps are parasites of caterpillars, laying their egg inside the host’s body, where the wasp larva develops and then emerges as an adult (inevitably killing the caterpillar, of course). Females are identifiable from males by the pale bands on their antennae (males lack these, or have indistinct bands), and are often found crawling on foliage or among the leaf litter looking for caterpillars, which may explain the situation with this individual, although it seems late in the season for her to be searching out a host. In fact, the 6 C (43 F) temperatures are not really favourable to most insects, so it was a little surprising to encounter her at all. Kaufman’s Guide to Insects notes that the females of some species hibernate as adults in protected spots such as under loose bark on logs or stumps. I don’t know what species she is (ichneumonids are difficult to identify to species simply from photos), and Kaufman doesn’t specify anyway, but perhaps she was searching out a hibernation spot.

Ichneumonid wasp

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3 responses to “Today at Kingsford – Ichneumonid wasp

  1. Lovely colour — reminds me of people’s “black” hair in old comic books.
    Can these wasps sting humans?

  2. Bugs do the darndest things! It’s a bug eat bug world … but it’s eat or be eaten. Parasites need a place too.

  3. I love your macro shots. The top one makes me think of science fiction — it would make a great book cover for an intelligent insect-like race of aliens!

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