Every so often you see an insect that is so colourful it demands your attention even if it’s not particularly pretty. When I saw this one flying around at ankle level, carefully checking for something on every plant and stem, I tried to get a photo. It was moving steadily and never perched while I was watching, so I was pleased to get one photo that is reasonably clear.
It’s One of Our Old Friends, the Ichneumon Wasps
I checked my id with BugGuide.Net and as I suspected this is another type of Ichneumon Wasp. I wrote about seeing a female with an ovipositor so long she could barely fly earlier. This one Is quite different to look at especially with its wide red and black tail.
According to the notes on BugGuide “Ichneumonids are notoriously hard to identify.” Apparently there are a huge number of types and within those there are many that look identical but are actually different ones.
This Wasp Has a Very Long Red Abdomen that Widens and is Flattened near the Black “Tail” End
That said, one of the BugGuide experts suggested mine is probably in the Subfamily Anomaloninae, and the genus Therion, and is probably a female.
There are photos of similar looking ones posted from Pennsylvania and Nova Scotia, among other places in North America.
What Does This Therion Wasp Eat?
Again, from BugGuide, this family usually preys on butterfly, moth and beetle larvae when it is a larva itself. The female probably lays eggs on or near caterpillars or beetle larvae which then are eaten by her offspring.
So this one I was watching was probably hunting for food for her future larvae.
One butterfly website I visited mentioned that while this may seem cruel to us it is actually a good thing or the numbers of caterpillars would strip bare many trees and plants.
Despite their colouring, these wasps are tricky to spot while they hunt among the clover, vetch and trefoils. Can you spot this one? Do you notice how the tri-coloured dangling legs now look more like stems?
I think I may feel rather smug next spring if I see another of these insects. I wonder how I can casually mention to my friends what it is without it being obvious that I’m trying to brag?
Have you seen one of these brightly coloured wasps? Please share your sighting with a comment.