Wasp that is a House Thief
The Cuckoo wasp is a beautiful colorful insect with a metallic appearance that gives off colors of blue, green and red. With a speedy movement and small size, they are hard to even see. As a matter of fact at only ½” long and constantly on the move, they can be mistaken for a housefly. But this is not the most interesting fact about the Cuckoo wasp. Their name is taken from the Cuckoo bird that reflects similar behavior when laying eggs and raising their young in other birds’ nests.
The Cuckoo wasp is a parasite wasp that typically uses other insects nest as their own. So, they may take advantage of the hard work of other wasps or bees but they have to be sneaky about their intentions. The Cuckoo wasp will watch for a typical host, such as a mud dauber wasp, to build their nest and raise their own young. However, with surveillance like an insect on a stake out they wait for the best time to plan their invasion. Once the mud dauber has completed the nest and is ready to lay their eggs, they will paralyze other insects to place in the nest for food when the eggs hatch. But leave it to the Cuckoo wasp to spoil their plans. While the mud dauber is dragging the paralyzed insect into its nest, the small Cuckoo wasp will hitch a ride into the mud daubers nest to lay its own eggs. They also have been known to make a direct and brave entry into the host nest, even risking injury. But they are well suited for this type of attack, as they have an exoskeleton that will protect them from the real nest owner’s stings. In addition to that, their body has a pocket in the underside of their body to bring the eggs in. When the invaded mud dauber tries to sting the Cuckoo wasp and its eggs, they simply curl up to protect the eggs in the pocket, so the mud dauber simply kicks it out of the nest unharmed. Then the Cuckoo wasp stakes out the nest again until it can gain entry to lay its eggs.
The host nest is a perfect place for the Cuckoo wasp eggs, as the mud dauber does not detect the difference in its own eggs and that of the intruder. So it lays its eggs, leaves the paralyzed insect that it carried in for food and then seals up its nest / tube with a cap. The poor mud dauber now leaves its eggs to hatch, not knowing that there is an enemy intruder sealed up with its potential young. The larva of the Cuckoo wasp then hatches earlier than that of the mud dauber. This allows them to have a safe place to grow, and to feed on the mud dauber larva as a source of food. Once they grow, they also benefit from the hard work of the host, to leave food for its own larva. So the Cuckoo wasp then feed on the insect that was paralyzed and placed carefully in the nest for the mud dauber larva. A very adapt thief indeed. Not only does the Cuckoo wasp invade the host nest, use the host larva as food, but also have additional food to grow and thrive; all thanks to another insect’s hard work.
The Cuckoo wasp primarily live in dryer climates, but do live in all states. They are most active in the summer months, flying around gathering nectar and staking out their next host nest. Although they do have a stinger, it is very small and has been considered not to sting. Cases have been found of larger species in other countries that will sting, similar to a wasp or bee. Though they are not considered to be a major pest control issue here in Nashville, Tennessee; keep on the watch. Maybe you will get a glimpse of the beautiful iridescent wasp that inhabits our state. As with any wasp sighting around your home, be careful and give Certified Pest Control a call, to properly identify and define a treatment program to protect you and your home.