Digger wasps in action

Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus

Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus digging a burrow | Stoddard Co., Missouri

Here is an animated gif that I made from a series of photographs of the digger wasp, Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus (ID courtesy of Doug Yanega), digging a burrow in a sand bank in extreme southeastern Missouri (it’s amazing what you can do with an iPhone and a free internet app!). A large number of these wasps had colonized the sand bank, and as I photographed this one individual busily digging its burrow, others repeatedly flew up and investigated. The digging individual would disappear briefly down into the burrow, and each time it returned to the surface with a fresh load of sand another wasp would fly up to it and investigate. The digging individual never seemed to pay much attention to the investigating wasp, so I’m not sure if these other wasps were looking for a potential mate or perhaps even trying to usurp the burrow.

The cumulative noise from all of the flying wasps was really quite remarkable—indeed, the noise is what drew my attention to the sand bank in the first place. A video of the colony with my commentary can be seen here. I did see one wasp that had returned to its burrow carrying prey (apparently a stink bug in the family Pentatomidae). I touched the wasp thinking that it would drop the prey and fly away, as another digger wasp, Cerceris fumipennis, does with its buprestid prey when disturbed. This would have given me a chance to confirm the prey identity. Unfortunately, the wasp kept hold of the prey and flew off with it.

© Ted C. MacRae 2014

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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10 Responses to Digger wasps in action

  1. Very nice Ted! Love the digger wasps, but I seldom come across nest sites. So were the photos taken with the iPhone, or did you just use the app to assemble the gif?

  2. Sam says:

    That’s so cool. How close could you get to take the picture? No stings?

    • I was just a few inches away – as close as I could get and have the camera still be able to focus. I did also have it zoomed a bit. In my experience digger wasps, even big ones like cicada killers, are not aggressive and reluctant to sting. I routinely reach inside the net bag after catching Cerceris fumipennis to grab the prey and all the wasp does is fly up against the net bag trying to get out. I imagine it would probably sting if I tried to actually grab it—but I haven’t tried that ;)

  3. brunosellmer says:

    Nice giff, did you use reflex camera for that?

  4. Pingback: Morsels For The Mind – 05/09/2014 › Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast

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