Tag Archives: Insects in Grazalema

Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)

Sporting the colours yellow and black of a normal wasp, this flying insect looks strangely disconnected in flight. The overall length is from 19 to 25mm with part of that made up of a yellow “thread” or pedicel. The body is mainly black with yellow bands on the long legs which hang down in flight. They can be found in Southern Europe and Africa.

Sceliphron spirifex are solitary wasps and are not aggressive, they do not sting unless mishandled. The sexes look very similar with the female being larger and with a visible sting.

Collecting mud for the nest - Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)
Collecting mud for the nest – Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)

The female searches out an ideal shelter to create a mud daub nest, by flying repeatedly around an area and finally walking around to be thoroughly sure in her choice.

Shade from the sun and shelter from the rain are priority. Fine particles of mud are then collected, balled up and flown back to the chosen site. They will search out a damp patch from an irrigation system, pond or puddle, returning frequently during the day to collect more.

Mud nest of Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)
Mud nest of Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)
Mud nest of Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)
Mud nest of Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)

Several cells are connected along side each other, sharing the mud walls, but they are individual, sealed tube. Each cell will contain one egg and be provided with food for the larvae when it hatches.

The food is in the form of small spiders with between 6 and 14 per cell. These are mostly small crab or jumping spiders that the wasp hunts and brings alive but paralised to the mud cell.

Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)
Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)

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Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea) Abeja azul de la madera

There are large, virtually all black bees which visit flowering plants and shrubs throughout the spring and summer, their scientific name is Xylocopa violacea. The later part of this name derives from the beautiful purple / blue sheen seen on the wings as they catch the sunlight. These black bees are common in central and southern Europe.

Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea) Abeja azul de la madera
Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea) Abeja azul de la madera

Do not be alarmed by their size of up to 23mm, they are not aggressive and will simply go about their business of collecting nectar from flowers, chooseing to fly away from people. The male does not have the ability to sting. The males will chase other males in competition as well as females that they wish to mate. At this time they can be noisy, crashing into walls, windows etc. If caught and handled the female may sting as a means of self defence.

Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea) Abeja azul de la madera
Male (note orange tips on antenna) Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea) Abeja azul de la madera

The name carpenter bee is due to their using dead wood to breed in. The female uses her mandibles to chew into the wood, creating tunnels into which she will lay up to 15 eggs. The small bits of wood that break away, will either be discarded or used to separate the egg cells. They are just as content to place their eggs in an existing tunnel such as a bamboo tube. Each egg will be provided with pollen on which to eat when it hatches.

These bees are very efficient pollinators of open flowers but can also use their size and weight to break into long tubular flowers from above and steal the nectar without collecting and distributing any pollen.


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Mammoth Wasp – (Megascolia (Regiscolia / maculata flavifrons) – Avispa parasita de cuatro puntas

Megascolia flavifrons male and female examples
Megascolia flavifrons male and female examples
(Left: Female showing yellow head Right: Male, note long antennae)

This is a very large solitary wasp, the female reaching up to 4.5cm whereas the male is a little smaller. This species appears in warm weather during late May, June, July and August.

They hold no danger to humans despite their size and black / yellow warning colours. They feed eagerly on flower nectar and this is the best time to view them.

Continue reading Mammoth Wasp – (Megascolia (Regiscolia / maculata flavifrons) – Avispa parasita de cuatro puntas