Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: What is this large wasp?

 

Giant_cicada_killer

Giant_cicada_killer

A:  You brought in a Giant Cicada killer or giant ground hornet, Sphecious speciosus, which is the common Florida species. This insect can grow to almost 2 inches long and easily one of the largest wasps found in Florida.  The females of the common Florida species hunt Tibicen spp. cicadas and can dig four-foot burrows in the ground with several branches and cells.  Between one and four cicadas are deposited per cell depending on the size of the adult cicada. Cicada killers are usually considered beneficial insects since they destroy plant-feeding cicadas. Also, they rarely sting except when the females are handled. However, under certain circumstances, such as when elderly persons or young children are present in the breeding areas, one may want to discourage their presence. This can be done by eliminating or reducing the breeding area, which usually consists of exposed, sandy soil. This area can be mulched or covered with grass. Labeled insecticides can be applied to the nesting sites to kill the wasps. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in573

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Q: What kind of wasp is this?

Black Yellow Mud Dauber

Black Yellow Mud Dauber

A:  Thank you so much for bringing me a black and yellow mud dauber, Sceliphron caementarium. This attractive wasp can be found from southern Canada to Central America and the West Indies. It has a very distinct, long pedicel or waist attachment which is between the thorax and abdomen.  The pedicel can be nearly twice as long as the abdomen.  The wings of the black and yellow wasp are amber or smoky in color.  The legs of this insect are black and yellow. The pedicel can be black or yellow but it will form a small yellow spot where it attaches to the top of the abdominal area. The black and yellow coloring tells other predators this insect should be left alone. The adult females collect mud for their nests, thus the name, “mud dauber.” Each adult female wasp will build a nest of about 25 cylindrical cells or more at a sheltered location, such as the eaves of the house, in a barn or shed, or under a bridge. She will lay one egg per cell and insert a spider for the larva to consume once it has hatched; then she seals the cell with mud. While all wasps can sting multiple times, black and yellow wasps are generally gentle in nature and not easily provoked. We do not recommend poking them or handling them but as a rule – they are not aggressive. I know people do not often like so see the mud cases on their homes, but if possible, consider leaving them alone. Because they are hunters, we consider them beneficial.  The adults also feed on nectar from local flowers.