The pollinators are quite busy in the yard these days. Especially in the afternoon, when the sun is hammering down on the flowers, the bees, wasps, moths, and butterflies are to be seen in great numbers. The mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) is literally a buzz with them. The skippers seem to favor the black-eyed Susans. The butterflies, not surprisingly, go for the butterfly bush (Buddleia). That being said, this large hornet was coming back again and again to the buddleia. I’m not as happy with it as I might be but it’s a decent photo. These wasps are social and build large paper enclosed nests. I’m a little surprised to only see one of them, but there are surely more around the area.
Tagged With: Vespidae
This potter wasp (Eumenes fraternus) is one of my favorite wasps (doesn’t everyone have favorite wasps?). There’s fairly common around here. While they are particularly drawn to the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), they are also found regularly on the black-eyed Susans (Rudbekia) and painter’s palette (a.k.a. knotweed, Persicaria virginiana). I think it’s their clean lines that I like. They’re difficult to photograph well and I’m not really happy with this photo, although it’s the best I was able to get. They don’t really stop moving and unless the light is very strong, it’s hard to get both adequate depth of field and a short enough exposure to stop their motion.
There are a few paper wasps that are very difficult to distinguish and some that are impossible without examining them at the microscopic level. A number of them are quite variable, as well, adding to the difficulty. I think this is a northern paper wasp (Polistes fuscatus) but I’m nowhere near sure. It’s a beautiful creature, whatever it is. This was taken with my 100mm lens with the addition of a 25mm extension tube in bright evening sunlight. As you can see, I was able to get fairly close and I’m pleased by how sharp this turned out. You might also notice the aphids on the underside of the leaf the wasp is on. I took some photos of those, as well, but haven’t identified them yet (beyond the generic “aphid”).
This is a European hornet (Vespa crabro). It’s also dead. I found it on the floor of the basement when I stepped on it in my bare feet, which worried me a little. It was mostly dead before I stepped on it and completely dead after that. Since I didn’t get stung, I’m over it. They are predatory on other insects so in general (and outside my basement), I have no problem with them being around. They are similar in size to the eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus) but are quite different in appearance. As large as they are, the European hornet is smaller than the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia, sometimes referred to as murder hornets), which can be 30% to 50% larger.
The mountain mint is really buzzing these days. The height of summer is really great for seeing bees and wasps and I really enjoy seeing them in the afternoon. The sun beating down it a bit much so I can only take it for short stretches but it’s worth it to see the variety of stinging things buzzing around. This is, I believe, a four-toothed mason wasp (Monobia quadridens). The larvae feed on leaf-rolling caterpillars so are generally considered good to have around. Their sting is something you want to avoid but like most hornets and wasps, if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.
It’s peony time here. I love peonies and it’s a little surprising I haven’t planted more than I have. We have a few on the south end of the house that were here when we moved in. This one, planted in our back garden near the fence, is the only other one we have and I planted three of them in 2014. One thing about peonies is they take a while to really get established. Once they do, of course, they are hard to beat. Even a small plant like these, which only produce one or two blooms each, are pretty amazing, though. I really like this one, called ‘Coral Sunset’. I also love the fact that I caught a little potter or mason wasp hovering near it.