Red Paper Wasp, Foraging
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So far this summer I’ve written two or three posts about paper wasps, a favorite subject of mine. All of the featured images have been of a single species, Polistes flavus, large nearly all yellow wasps that are quite common in the Tucson area.
However, although Polistes flavus may be the dominant species, it is not the only species of paper wasp that inhabits these parts. There are at least three or four other species that live around here and they are beautiful and fascinating in their own right.
The other evening I was out inspecting the foliage in our back yard. We have several Bird of Paradise plants. These shrubs with their brilliant red and orange flowers grow weed-like during the summer monsoon. We cut ours back to nearly ground level each January or February but by now they are five feet or more in height. The plants are magnets for pollinating insects, including bees and wasps.
As I watched, I saw a large red wasp land on a vertical stem. It paused for an instant and then, systematically walked up and down the stem. It was in constant motion, slowly climbing, then descending, then repeating its action.
Unlike the bees, the wasp was not focusing on harvesting nectar from the plant’s many flowers and, at first, its behavior puzzled me. What was it doing?
On closer inspection it became more apparent. The wasp was methodically stripping tiny fibers from the exterior of the plant’s stems.
Wasps build elaborate nests from chewed up plant fibers. That’s the stuff that goes into making the “paper” in a paper wasp’s nest. The was harvesting the raw material for its construction project.
I’ve tried for a couple of years to identify the red wasp’s species, without success. There’s nothing on line that tells me what it is. It isn’t a rarely seen insect, by any means although I see far fewer of them than Polistes flavus. So, for the time being I’ll just call it a “red paper wasp.”
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180mm f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, stabilized by monopod, M setting, ISO 250, f14 @ 1/160.