Insect-Insect Interaction: Crabronid wasps and treehoppers

Crabronid wasp photographed 07/14/2010 near Clayton Michigan.

This July I noticed a flurry of activity among some wasps (family Crabronidae, possibly of the genus Hoplisoides or Gorytes) outside of my workplace.  They were busy collecting a large amount of paralyzed prey to stock their nests.

Paralyzed treehopper (family Membracidae), photographed 07/14/2010 near Clayton Michigan.

Their choice of prey seemed to be a particular species of treehopper (family Membracidae).  The wasps were probably finding them feeding on nearby trees, where they would have stung them to induce paralysis. The wasps then carried them back to their subterranean nests to place with their eggs.

Paralyzed treehopper (Membracidae) left near the opening of a wasp burrow (Crabronidae). Photographed 07/14/2010 near Clayton Michigan.

These treehoppers are true bugs (order Hemiptera) in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha.  Many Crabronid wasps collect members of this suborder as food for their young.  Since insects in this suborder are usually plant pests to some extent, these wasps seem to be beneficial to us.

I would have liked to get a photo of one of the wasps carrying a treehopper while in flight.  The treehoppers were about as large as the wasps, so it must have been challenging for them.  They seemed to have a little trouble maneuvering in the air, but they got the job done.

After perhaps a week or two, the provisioning activity stopped.  I can only assume the adults went back to sipping on flower nectar while their offspring hatched and started devouring their prey.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Ecology, Entomology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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