Wasps

Tappy Tap

This is a male Ichneumon wasp. While not as impressive looking as the females with those extraordinary long ovipositors, they are still somewhat unique in the wasp world.

Ichneumons have antennae with 16 segments instead of the typical 13 segments sported by most wasps. These highly developed antennae help females to tappy tap on wood to locate an appropriate grub to deposit her egg into. Males use this same ability to “see” through the wood’s surface to look for a female who might be about to emerge.

Something else interesting is the fact that the family Ichneumonidae is considered (at present) the largest family in the animal kingdom. It is estimated there are between 60,000 and 100,000 species of these beneficial wasps.

Also, most arthropods tend to become more diverse as you get closer to the equator. Ichneumons; however, seem to increase in diversity at higher latitudes.

Yes! Finally a win for Canada.

Also, if you or anyone you know appreciates the important role of arthropods and would like to get involved on a deeper level and support my photography and conservation efforts, please visit Patreon.com/KarlaThompson
Thanks so much guys!

Nikon D3x, Nikkor 200mm macro, ISO100, 1/60, F10, two diffused SB200 flash heads, tripod

September 2016, Florida, USA

Challenging Myself

So, I was thinking about getting rid of the Canon MP 65mm macro lens. It is tough to use and best used on something that doesn’t move. Most of the things I shoot tend to be rather active.

After looking at this photo, I have changed my mind. I think it is worth spending some time practicing with it. It truly brings out the details.

When you think of wasps normally you don’t think of them being hairy, but the lighting caught this Yellow Jacket just right to show off that nice fluff.

And I am particularly intrigued by the exquisite pattern on the cheek of this wasp. I tried to find information on it, but came up empty handed. Oh well, it can stay a beautiful mystery.

Also, if you or anyone you know appreciates the important role of arthropods and would like to get involved on a deeper level and support my photography and conservation efforts, please visit Patreon.com/KarlaThompson
Thanks so much guys!

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon MP 65mm macro, ISO100, 1/60, F16, ring flash, hand held

August 2016, Courtenay, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Arthropod Advocacy

Check out the paint job on these female wasps. I believe these ladies are Polistes dorsalis. That matte red with yellow striping and splashes of black is quite stunning.

P. dorsalis does look similar to a couple of other species and it takes a trained eye and some well timed shots to be able to tell for sure without having to capture and kill them.

I’m sure it is common knowledge by now. I will never collect and mount insects just for a positive id on them – I would rather be wrong. Each one is an individual and deserves the right to live its life to the fullest, and produce future generations for us to wonder at.

Yes, collecting for important science-based studying has its place, but collecting for kicks, or to have a cool insect to hang on your wall is disgusting.

My soapbox was getting a little dusty. I feel better now. ūüėú

Also, if you or anyone you know appreciates the important role of arthropods and would like to get involved on a deeper level and support my photography and conservation efforts, please visit Patreon.com/KarlaThompson
Thanks so much guys!

Canon 5D MarkII, Canon EF 100mm macro, ISO100, 1/125, F11, diffused flash, handheld

September 2016, Florida, USA

Sand Wasp Mothers

Are you familiar with sand wasps? They are sometimes mistaken for more aggressive wasps, but they are in fact quite calm around humans and quite helpful.

Adults consume nectar and are beneficial pollinators. The preferred prey of the sand wasp female for her larvae is flies. She will lay her eggs in sandy areas and will continue to bring her larvae freshly killed insects until they pupate. This is know as progressive provisioning and is quite different from how most wasps provide food.

Usually, a wasp female will “stock” a burrow with all the paralyzed (so as not to rot) insects, lay her eggs, then seal up the nest and never return. The larvae will then work its way through the food supply.

With progressive provisioning, the female will bring larger and larger amounts of fresh food as the larvae grow until it is no longer needed.

Good little mamas.

Also, if you or anyone you know appreciates the important role of arthropods and would like to get involved on a deeper level and support my photography and conservation efforts, please visit Patreon.com/KarlaThompson
Thanks so much guys!

Nikon D3x, Nikkor 200mm macro f4, ISO100, 1/320, f4.8, natural light, handheld.

August, 2016, Comox, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Grass Crazy

Have you ever removed your window screen and found a pile of old brown grass? Or maybe you have seen grass sticking out of random holes in wood? What about seeing a wasp carrying a long piece of grass trailing behind it as it flew by?

This is not the handiwork of an insect prankster. This is the nest material of the Grass-carrying wasp.

Grassy-carriers find a suitable crevice and line it with grass. Next, they collect small katydids and crickets. (Different species prefer different prey.) These they paralyze with a sting and stuff inside the grass-lined nest. Then, they lay eggs near the prey and seal up the nest.
The larvae eat the prey and in a few short days, 4 to 5 usually, spin a cocoon and pupate.

I have yet to see any of these things happen myself, but I did catch this photo of a Grass-carrying wasp as it was resting on a leaf.

Also, if you or anyone you know appreciates the important role of arthropods and would like to get involved on a deeper level and support my photography and conservation efforts, please visit Patreon.com/KarlaThompson
Thanks so much guys!

Nikon D3x, Nikkor 105mm macro, ISO100, 1/200, F7.1, natural light, handheld

May 2014, Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA

DNA based virus

This photo of a Braconid wasp from a couple of years past is not the best quality, but I needed to share the information I discovered while researching them. It is too fascinating to keep to myself.

Most people are familiar with parasitoid wasps. (A parasitoid eventually killing or reducing the hosts chance of reproduction vs. a typical parasite who uses a host but does not normally harm it.) Braconid wasps, who are closely related to the Ichneumon wasps and share similar hunting traits, will, depending on the species, deposit their larvae in, on, or near the host.

The larvae will then begin to devour the host, not stop until it is ready to burst free to become a fully mobile adult and start looking for a mate.

While inside the host, the parasitoid comes prepackaged with virus used to defend the larvae from the immune system of the host.
This virus is actually built in to the DNA of the wasp!
It is no wonder these exceptional predators are being used to help control pest species such as aphids, weevils, and bark beetles.

This is just the briefest of overviews. If this intrigues you the way it does me, I encourage you to research parasitoids further.

Also, if you or anyone you know appreciates the important role of arthropods and would like to get involved on a deeper level and support my photography and conservation efforts, please visit Patreon.com/KarlaThompson
Thanks so much guys!

Thread Waisted Wasp

Are you familiar with Aphid Wasps? I wasn’t either until I started researching this beauty.
Well don’t get excited. This is not an Aphid wasp nor a Spider wasp which was my next guess.

A giant thank you to Bug Guide as they have identified my little wasp as Prionyx canadensis or a Thread-Waisted Wasp.

This individual is a male, and as they only had one other photo of a male of this particular species, they were super excited to have my submission. 

Also, if you or anyone you know appreciates the important role of arthropods and would like to get involved on a deeper level and support my photography and conservation efforts, please visit Patreon.com/KarlaThompson
Thanks so much guys!

Nikon D3x, Nikkor 200mm macro f4, ISO100, 1/60, F13, two diffused SB200 flash heads, tripod

June 2016, Courtenay, BC, Canada

Little Girl

This photo of the European Paper Wasp gives you a sense of their size. Those are blueberries for reference.
They may seem like the size of a small bird if you are afraid and are running and screaming in the opposite direction, but I assure you they are actually rather small.
Remain calm and respect their personal space and they will continue to help you by pollinating your flowers and attacking potential garden predators.
Also, if you or anyone you know appreciates the important role of arthropods and would like to get involved on a deeper level and support my photography and conservation efforts, please visit Patreon.com/KarlaThompson

Thanks so much guys!

Nikon D3x, Nikkor 200mm macro lens, ISO100, 1/60, F10, two diffused SB200 flash heads, tripod

May 2016, Courtenay, BC, Canada

Working Girl

This little girl is a European paper wasp (Polistes dominula). Did you know the likelihood of her becoming the dominant egg-laying female is based on the the spots on her face? The flat area above her mouth and between her eyes is called the clypeus. The more spots located here, the better. I’m not sure the small smears she is sporting will do her much good. Unfortunately, she may be destined for a life of waitressing or working for the DMV.
Nikon D3x, Nikkor 200mm macro, ISO100, 1/60, F9, two diffused SB200 flash heads, tripod

May 2016, Courtenay, BC, Canada