03 January 2012

Hairy Flower Wasp – Scoliidae – Campsomeris sp.

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Hairy Flower Wasp – Scoliidae – Campsomeris sp.

Most Hairy Flower Wasps are black or blue/black, but the Campsomeris genus have orange, yellow or gold markings and generally are amongst the largest of wasps with the above species being 3-4 cm (1.5”) in head/body length. They are solitary insects without a nest, as the female lays a single egg on a paralysed and insensitised (stung) scarab beetle larvae, leaving it to hatch and consume the host. Because these wasps have no nest to protect and fortunately for people are not aggressive and will only sting if physically interfered with.

Both males and females of this family are winged, but can differ considerably in other ways; with Campsomeris the males are similar but slimmer and have longer antennae (the above wasp is female). The female will dig into the ground in search of scarab larvae, including mown lawns so can be found around human habitation. Males on the other hand will often fly close to the ground waiting for the females to emerge, which will indicate wasps are active in the immediate area.

With all the digging and flying activity, these wasps need the energy of sugars found in flower nectar and can be encountered with their head buried amongst the blossom. Locally, the individual Melaleuca subfalcata flowers are favoured, which also attract other flower wasps. 

To distinguish Hairy Flower Wasps (Scoliidae) from other wasps (including other flower wasps) that may also be hairy, features like the general shape of the insect, antennae (number of segments) and the eye (kidney shaped) are important. However the most distinctive is the venation of the (yellow) wings, particularly the fine parallel pseudovenation (grooves) near the wing tips (see photo above). These wasps are widespread and most active during warmer months.