Hairy Flower Wasp

21 February, 2010

Flower Wasp on flower.
Flower Wasp on flower.
Image: Arturs Neboiss
Source: Museum Victoria

During the summer months the Discovery Centre receives many enquiries from people who are curious about a largish blue wasp. These wasps are usually identified as Scolia soror, commonly known as a Hairy Flower Wasp. This is a native species found throughout much of the country. They can be identified by their wings, which have a distinctive purple-blue sheen, are usually 2.0 to 3.5 cm in size, with a black body, short antennae and wing veins that stretch to the margin of the wing.
 
Scolia soror, is often seen flying just above ground level, in particular flying near or around compost heaps, wood heaps or dead stumps of trees where the female wasps are looking for beetle larvae, (usually scarab beetles but sometimes weevils). The wasps are strong burrowers and when they find a beetle larva they sting and paralyse it and lay an egg on it. On hatching the young wasp has a live, paralysed food source waiting for it. Adult Hairy Flower Wasps drink nectar and so are frequent visitors to flowers where their size and colour make them easy to see when sitting on a flower.
 
Some people are concerned that this wasp may be dangerous or aggressive. Unlike the European Honeybee, European Wasp, and some native species, the Hairy Flower Wasps do not make a nest or form colonies. If you see several flying around a compost heap or tree stump it simply means that several wasps are investigating for beetle larvae at the same time.

Hairy Flower Wasps do possess a sting, but they do not have a communal hive to defend and so tend not to be aggressive. If you were to stand on one or if the wasp feels threatened it may well sting in defence. Apparently the sting is painful and people who know they have an allergy to bee or wasp stings should avoid getting stung. Despite the many calls we receive about these wasps we have not had a sting reported to us at the Museum. Given that these wasps are native to Australia, can be useful for maintaining the population of other insects and are also attractive to look at they can be viewed/considered a welcome addition to a garden bed or backyard environment!

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Jacqui 10 February, 2011 09:39
thankyou we have a few visitors in our garden that fit the above description perfectly. thankyou for allaying any concerns regarding agression and hive formation / defending.
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