Friday, October 4, 2013

Velvet Ant - Not

Someone found this on our recent field trip to Henning Conservation Area.  It was a good catch and a brave one considering its fierce appearance.  On first glance it looks a little like a male velvet ant (the females are wingless).  I posted it on and within minutes I had a tentative ID, a Spider wasp - Psorthaspis sanguinea.  We are now awaiting confirmation by a specialist.

There is essentially nothing on P. sanguinea on the web.  It is a member of the  Pompilidae family, a group characterized by their powerful sting which paralyzes a spider which is then dragged off to a nest.  A single egg will be laid on the spider, which will remain alive while the wasp larva slowly consumes it until it pupates.

Not only is its appearance enough to intimidate a bug collector, but its nickname "horse killer" should be a clue.  We described the powerful sting of this family, which is ranked at the peak of the Schmidt pain scale, in a previous Tarantula Killer blog,   Fortunately no Master Naturalists were hurt in filming this wasp.

This is one of a series on finds on the Master Naturalist training field trip.  More pictures from the  field trip are at Finds from the Field

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