gardening | Nature

Blue Wings

Wasps are not something I think about very often (until they become a threat anyway), but my attention was drawn to a half dozen fascinating black wasps with blue wings diligently working the flowers like honeybees. I’ve seen them in other years, but sometimes you don’t pay any attention to such things until you’re ready to. It seems I was ready to. And researching this wasp made me gasp.

I can think of many ways to die that would be better than the way the prey of the Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) die.  In fact, it might just be the most horrific way to die I could think of.  The wasps sting their prey, usually things like grasshoppers and katydids, to paralyze it.  They’ll then bring it back to their underground nest, where they lay eggs on the stomach of the prey that feed on the still-alive and most unfortunate victim.  If you were going to write a script for a horror movie, being eaten alive by the offspring of your hunter while paralyzed in captivity might be your inspiration.

The Great Black Wasp lives up to its name – black all over with iridescent blue wings.  Its huge by wasp standards. The ones flying around in my garden were more than an inch long, which is daunting when you consider the stinging insects flying around you.  But they were too busy pollinating flowers and looking for food for their offspring to eat alive to worry about me.  I was grateful for their lack of aggression, because I found them to be beautiful insects.  But then, I’m not a grasshopper.

Viewing the wasps was a nice departure from the devastation caused by the groundhog.  It reminded me that the flower garden is really my preference anyway, precisely because it attracts interesting pollinators like the Great Black Wasp.  At some point maybe the garden will return to normal again, just as I hope the world will. And in those dark moments that 2020 brings think about those beautiful blue wings and remember: things can always be much, much worse.

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