Mammoth Wasp

Family: Scoliidae

Scientific name: Megascolia (Regiscolia) maculata flavifrons also Scolia flavifrons

3/6/11-Sotogrande-Male Mammoth wasp feeding on scabious

The aptly named Mammoth Wasp is an intimidating – looking insect, but despite its black and yellow ‘warning’ colours, it is not at all dangerous to people.

They are large impressive insects and females may grow to reach 4.5cm in length; the males are a little smaller and differ slightly in their appearance.

Sadly, I found this female dead in the garden

Females have a yellow face and short antennae, while the smaller males have a black face and longer antennae.Both are marked with yellow bands on their abdomens, which may be broken and show as four yellow spots.

The face of the female is yellow

The wasps are most likely to be noticed in the warmer weather of late May, June, July and August when they are found around flowers, seeking nectar.

Mammoth Wasps feed on the nectar of flowers

Rhinosceros Beetle- Oryctytes nasicornis

Mammoth Wasps are solitary and unlikely to be seen in any numbers. They are a parasitic species and females may be seen around decaying wood, tree stumps and the like, seeking the larvae of a specific beetle to parasitise.She will be searching for a large, plump larva of the Rhinosceros beetle (Oryctytes nasicornis); when she finds one, she will sting it to paralyse it, then lay an egg on its outer skin. Once the wasp larva hatches it will eat into its unfortunate and helpless host, thus killing it. The larva then builds itself a cocoon close to the host’s remains and remains there until the spring when the weather is warm enough for it to emerge as an adult.

oTHER SPECIES

MAMMOTH WASP - Megascolia bidens

There are several species of Mammoth Wasp in Iberia, another of which is Megascolia bidens.

The most marked difference from the species described above is in the antennae, which are always coloured, either yellow as the specimen in my photographs or sometimes a reddish-orange colour.

May - Feasting on the nectar of a Pink Cistus flower

 

12 responses to “Mammoth Wasp

  1. I’ve just found a girl-beast one of these in Northern Spain. Glad to hear it’s not dangerous as it certainly looked it. I’ll have to take some photographs.

    • Lucky you – I’ve only seen 1 so far this year, another male. Females must be all out hunting for hapless rhino beetle larvae victims. I’ll keep a look-out for your pics and keep trying for better ones myself!

  2. Robert Carter

    Just seen a couple this morning (could be the same one of course) I had no idea what it was and imagined it to be some sort of beetle, because of it’s size. So glad to hear it won’t want to take a bite out of me! …but it is fascinating. I’m near Orihuela on the Coasta Blanca

  3. we live in Bulgaria and we think this is what is all over our mock orange bush. I have seen them alone but never so many together. I do not feel threatened by them and they don’t worry about me being there watching them. the ones in the garden differ a little because there is no orange/yellow head just black and one HUGE one that had a RED head. Is there a closely related species to these or will they differ from country to country?

  4. We have seen one last Sunday (Melieha, Malta) and another this week (Selmun’s Palace, Malta) – both female. Very impressive.

  5. Thanks for looking in, I agree the Mammoths are very impressive indeed. You are lucky to have seen two females, my sightings of them were very few and far between. Best wishes

  6. Gavin MacMillan

    For some strange reason, I seem to have a couple of swarms of these, or of something very similar. I have the decaying stumps of 3 alianthis altissimus trees (tree of heaven), and the wasps hang round these in numbers – sometimes up to a dozen or more can be seen at once. I find I can approach them with little sense of threat from them, although trying to get a picture of them is not easy, as their flight is rapid and erratic – I did manage to photograph one male on the ground which was behaving oddly, and also with a second male, looking as though they were trying to mate!. I am in in the hills about 15 km in from the coast in Malaga province. I first noticed them last year while making a flying visit in July, but then left for work, and by the time I returned, they had vanished for the winter. They have only just reappeared. Can post you some pics for positive ID if you are interested.

    • Sounds intriguing! I’m no expert on insects, but I’d be very interested to see your photographs, well done for getting some by the way, and may be able to help. If I can’t, I do know people who will! Best wishes, Theresa

      • Gavin MacMillan

        How do I post the pics? I don’t see any way of doing this direct on the page.

      • nightingaletrails

        Hi Gavin,

        Perhaps you could email them to me? – address as per this reply

        Theresa

      • Gavin MacMillan

        Hi Theresa

        I’ve attached some pics. Hopefully they’ll come through OK – sometimes have problems posting attachments. I notice the wasps seem to have disappeared so can’t help but wonder if there is a colony of beetles living in the dead tree stumps, and it is their larvae which attract the wasps.

        Out of curiosity. Something I have been noticing over the last few years, but especially this year it is very noticeable, is a massive reduction in insect numbers. Carpenter bees, once ubiquitous – it used to be normal that there was always one or two buzzing and bumbling around – have all but vanished here. If I see them more than a couple of times in a week, I am surprised, and such is their rarity that I now do very much take note when I see them. The same for bumble bees. Today I went for a wander round part of my land which is easily accesible. Since there is a lot of groundwater where I live, there is still a lot of greenery and wildflowers, especially, but not restricted to umbiflors, and this year, following the excessively wet spring, even more so than normal. Normally, I would expect to see these full of insects – beetles, butterflies, hoverflies, bees, wasps, etc., etc. But nothing. The only insect present seemed to be cicadas. And as I wandered round, I couldn’t help but think of the title of Rachel Caron’s famous book from 1962 – Silent Spring. Although my own land hasn’t been sprayed in the 13 years I’ve been here, I know the local campesinos do spray their land quite heavily – usual one here seems to be Attila, whoich is a glyphosate and is definitely not good. There is huge coverage of the decline of honeybees, but only recently am I starting to run across comments in articles regarding this, that wasp numbers are also collapsing. Anyway, what I was wondering is if you see this sort of trend down your way in Cadiz, as I am very concerned by it. I’ve been an active environmentalist since the ’70′s, including a couple fo years working on the boats with Greenpeace in the mid-80′s, but it is quite disturbing in th eleast to be seeing our predictions now being played out in front of me!

        But it’s a lovely summer – not too hot, not too humid, and in among the no insects, the good news is no mosquitoes either!

        And on that happy note.

        Cheers, Gavin

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