Nature Strollers

The mission of the Nature Strollers is to support parents and grandparents in their role as primary interpreters of nature for their families; to provide opportunities for families to enjoy unstructured time outdoors; to familiarize families with local trails, refuges, sanctuaries and preserves; and to develop networks among families with a common interest in nature.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

No, She Doesn't Sting!

Sybil discovered this five inch long ichneumon wasp, Megarhyssa macrurus, on the side of a shagbark hickory tree at Goose Pond Mountain State Park. This impressive female wasp is a member of a predatory wasp species that sports a long, flexible ovipositor, or egg laying tube, that is often mistaken for a three to four inch stinger! This beautifully patterned wasp is harmless to humans. The purpose of the ovipositor is not defense but reproduction. The female identifies a potential host for her larva, the larva of another wasp species (the pigeon tremex wasp) deep within the tree by using her antenna to detect the chemical odor of a fungus that is associated with the host larva. She then drills through the wood of the tree with her ovipositor and lays her eggs on the wasp larva within. When the Megarhyssa wasp's eggs hatch, they make a meal of the pigeon tremex wasp larva. I was triply impressed by this creature, for her beauty, size and complex ecological role. Thanks, Sybil!