Wasp of the Day: The Cuckoo Wasp!

Look at that face.  Butter wouldn’t melt, right?  Actually, the Cuckoo Wasp (Vespula austriaca) is a bit of a sly one.  You will never get chased by a swarm of Cuckoo Wasps.  Why?  There are no worker Cuckoo Wasps – the queen takes over the nests of the lovely Red Wasp (wouldn’t hurt a fly! – oh, well, maybe a fly…) and also takes command of the Red Wasp workers!  She lays her own eggs (queens and males) and the Red Wasp’s workers do all the feeding, tending, etc.  Sneaky.  Tricksy.

Identifying this one can be tricky unless you have it in a bug pot – but look at those points on her face above her jaws (that part of her face is called the clypeus).  That’s one feature.  Now, here’s a photo of two museum specimens – Cuckoo on the right, Red on the left.  The underside of the first segment of the cuckoo wasp’s antennae (closest to her head) are yellow… see?  This feature is called the ‘Scape’, and all the other UK species of Vespulas (Remember, we have Dollies and Vespies?) are all black (rufa, vulgaris and germanica).

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