Staff Pollinator Pick #3: Blue-winged wasp (Scolia dubia)
The more I learn about their behaviors, the more I love insect pollinators! My new favorite is the blue-winged wasp, Scolia dubia. These wasps are solitary. After emerging from the ground (where they grew up and overwintered), they do a courtship dance before mating. Then, each mated female will hover over lawns or gardens searching for grubs (especially Japanese and June beetle larvae). When she finds a grub, she digs into the soil, then paralyzes and lays an egg on it. Her young hatches and has fresh (live) grub, enough to mature. Their beautiful blue wings, distinctive orange rump with a yellow spot on each side, and conspicuously spiny legs make them easy to recognize (found throughout the east and as far west as the Rockies). The adults feed on nectar and pollen and they pollinate in the process of foraging. You can help them by planting nectar- and pollen-rich flowers, such as wingstem (Verbesina) shown here, and goldenrod (Solidago), that will bloom through the summer and into fall. These wasps often rest overnight on plants. On cool mornings, you might just find a toothy smile, as I did.
By Nancy Lee Adamson, Pollinator Conservation Specialist, Eastern Region