Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Insect & Bug ID #1: Four Toothed Mason Wasp

Four Toothed Mason Wasp (Monobia quadridens)
I thought it would be fun this winter to revisit many of the bug and insect photos I took in the garden this year and try to identify those I didn't know and learn more about those I did.  What better way to lift the spirits than imagining all that buzzing, flitting, and energy on warm sunny days?!  So our first insect spotlight falls on this pretty wasp, spotted sipping on buckwheat nectar.  (Fun side note - buckwheat usually only yields it's nectar in the late morning and there is a few hour window when it is absolutely hopping with bees and wasps!), an excellent resource for the bug and insect obsessed, has helped me identify this pretty blue winged wasp that visited the buckwheat in 2016 as Monobia quadridens, also known by the slightly goofy name of Four Toothed Mason Wasp.  I can't help but picture 4 human shaped front teeth inside that little wasp mouth but I'm sure it's not the case.

An even larger black/blue iridescent wasp was visiting the garden last year and I have yet to identify her.  She was very fast, flicking from flower to flower and about 2 inches in length.  I have a blurry photo somewhere that I'll have to dig up and try to start ID-ing her again.

Anyways, back to Four Toothed Mason Wasp territory.  The adults enjoy nectar, and pull caterpillars off plants to bring back to the nest and feed their young.  also states that this wasp usually nests in wood borings, but has been known to take over old carpenter bee or ground nesting bee nests or make itself a nest in a dirt bank.  It separates the cells of its nest with delicate mud partitions.

Wasps are very effective predators.  Once they find a caterpillar party they like, they often won't stop carrying off the caterpillars til the party is over.

What caterpillars does Four Tooth Mason Wasp favor?  Apparently moths.  Snout Moths (grain moths and wax moths), Grass Moths (beneficial and pest garden moths), Grass Miner Moths (whose larvae damage grass blades with mining), Twirler Moths (borers, miners, and grain moths), and Leafroller Moths (this is a big one - includes both Codling Moth and Spruce Budworm which greatly affect commercial crops) larvae are all favorite foods to bring back to the nest.  Many of these moths have detrimental effects on the garden and on stored grains.  It's good to know who this wasp is keeping in check!