Hairy Flower Wasp Scolia soror

What are Hairy Flower Wasps?

Hairy Flower Wasps are native to Australia. They belong to the wasp family Scoliidae and occur throughout most parts of Australia. They are large wasps with body lengths that usually measure from 1 to 3 cm although some can reach almost 4 cm in length – and that is large for an Australian wasp.

There are two main groups of Hairy Flower Wasps that occur within Victoria.

  1. The flower wasp most frequently seen in the back yard of most Victorians is. These wasps will most likely be seen flying just above ground level and in particular flying near or around compost heaps, wood heaps or dead stumps of trees. They can be easily recognised by:
    • their wings, which have a distinctive, metallic, blue-purple sheen
    • their size, which is usually 2.5 to 3.0 cm
    • their colour, which is predominantly black
    • their wing veins, which do reach the margin of the wing
    • their antennae, which are short.
    Scolia soror

    Scolia soror
    Source: Museum Victoria

  2. The second group is called Campsomeris. These wasps will also be seen flying at ground level in similar situations to Scolia soror. Campsomeris Flower Wasps are easily recognised by:
    • their size, which is up to 3.0 to 4.0 cm
    • their colour, which is predominantly orange-yellow
    • their wings, which are also yellow in colour.
Campsomeris Flower Wasp

Campsomeris Flower Wasp
Source: Museum Victoria

Why are they called flower wasps?

Like most insects that visit flowers, Hairy Flower Wasps drink nectar. Nectar provides them with food energy in the form of sugars that they use to power their wing muscles.

Flower wasps are frequent visitors to flowers and due to their size and colour, are extremely obvious when sitting on a flower.

What are they doing in my backyard?

Adult female flower wasps are designed to dig. They are large and powerful wasps. The female wasps are often seen visiting compost heaps or wood piles or flying around the dead stump of a tree. They are searching for scarab beetle grubs (such as the Christmas beetle group) in the ground and are quite capable of digging into compost heaps or saw-dust of a tree stump to find beetle grubs.

A Flower Wasp visiting a flower

A Flower Wasp visiting a flower
Photographer: Otto Rogge. Source: Otto Rogge Photography

Most wasps feed on other insects. Some, like the paper wasps catch their prey and kill it immediately to feed their young. However, many wasps have developed the technique of paralysing their prey and laying an egg inside the host. The hatched larva then feed inside the living host. Flower wasps are one such group of wasps.

Having located a beetle grub, the female stings and lays an egg inside it. The sting from the wasp does not kill the beetle grub but only paralyses it. There is a good reason why the female wasp does not kill the beetle grub. If the sting were to kill the beetle grub, then its tissue would immediately start to rot and decompose. When the wasp egg hatches inside the paralysed beetle grub it is surrounded by living tissue – the food that it needs to eat. The developing wasp larva knows which parts of the beetle grub to eat first to prolong the grub’s life for as long as possible; thus maximizing the chances of complete development of the wasp larva.

What are parasitoids?

An insect that slowly kills its host, usually near the end of the larval development is called a Parasitoid. This contrasts to the term Parasite in which the host usually is not killed.

Parasitoids are important natural population regulators in the insect world.

Do they live in colonies?

No – flower wasps are solitary and do not make a nest or form a colony. If you see several flying around a compost heap or tree stump it simply means that several wasps have found the area.

Do they sting and if so what will happen?

Yes – flower wasps do have a well developed sting. However, unlike a honey bee or a paper wasp, flower wasps do not have a nest or colony to protect, and therefore are not aggressive.

Importantly, they will not attack people for just being near where they are searching for food.

The only way you could get stung by a flower wasp is to accidentally stand or sit on it. This can occur as the flower wasps fly at ground level looking for beetle grubs.

To our knowledge, no one has ever had a problem with the sting of a flower wasp other than the pain of the sting itself. Usually the application of a water-ice pack placed on the sting site will quickly reduce the pain and swelling. Unlike the honey bee, the barb of the sting will not remain in the victim’s skin.

How can you or discourage them?

To discourage the flower wasp, you would need to remove it’s habitat from your area. However, there are a number of good reasons to leave it be.

  • Flower wasps are native to Australia
  • Flower wasps are solitary insects so do not develop a colony like a honey bee or European wasp
  • Flower wasps are not aggressive wasps
  • Flower wasps are useful for maintaining the populations of other insects – your own natural spray can!
  • Flower wasps have an amazing life cycle
  • Flower wasps will rarely sting you; if stung, the only consequence will be the pain of the sting.


Enjoy your local fauna!

Comments (28)

sort by
newest
oldest
Heather Fidge 9 January, 2010 01:07
Thank you very much for this information and your ability to so quickly identify the "strange" creatures that visited my garden this morning. Super service!
reply
Heather Cummins 10 January, 2010 09:06
I live on the Central Coast NSW and last week noticed and took photos of a large brilliant blue wasp attempting to place a large white curl grub into a hole on the side of a wooden sleeper surrounding my garden bed,it took some searching to find an answer to my querie and it looks to be a Hairy flower wasp ,are they usually found up in this area as well as Victoria ,I had not seen one before.
reply
Discovery Centre 11 January, 2010 15:03

Hi Heather, thanks for the comment.  Museum Victoria offers a free identification service, you can find details here: http://museumvictoria.com.au/discoverycentre/ask-us-a-question/identifications/

reply
Sandra Salmon 14 January, 2010 11:47
Thank you so much for helping us to identify this beautiful creature (that sadly we were wary of and therefore ...) Now that we know, we will definitely leave them be and be grateful that they are in our garden! (especially given the grub attack on one of our gums that we have had trouble controlling with putty!) Thank you!
reply
Lynaire 27 January, 2010 18:24
Your information on the flower wasp was very helpfu, I had one in my house the other day & it looked quite scarey & I didnt know what it was. I didnt realise we had these in Sydney. Thanks.
reply
Harry Johnson 16 January, 2011 12:02
Scolia sorer in a group of 20-30 inhabiting banksia integrifolia and syzygium sp. Would they have anything to do with large gall infestation of integrifolia fruit after flowering? our postcode is 2221
reply
Discovery Centre 20 January, 2011 14:10
Hi Harry, I wouldn't have thought the presence of galls would have much of an impact on Scolia soror numbers. The adults would be visiting plants for nectar rather than galls. They may also be in a garden in large numbers if it has lots of well composted garden beds, tree stumps and other areas containing beetle larvae for them to catch and paralyse for their young.   
reply
Luke Strain 30 January, 2011 17:58
Hi, we live in postcode 2905 and appear to have dozens of these (Scolia soror) wasps lazily flying around our front yard amongst the agapanthus. Except ours seem to have antennae measuring approx 1 cm in length. We have a forest litter mulch down which is decomposing well and obviously have grubs in the soil as the Magpie's are constantly picking through the mulch. We are not sure where they have come from as other houses in the street seem to be free of this insect. Can we discourage them as many of our visitors seem to be scared of the insects especially when we seem to have so many flying about at one time. Thanks
reply
Discovery Centre 2 February, 2011 14:10
Hi Luke - there probably isn't any real need to discourage them as they pose no real threat, as the information above says. However, there are some pointers in the information above on measures you can take to discourage them.
close this reply
Write your reply to Discovery Centre's comment All fields are required

We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.

Jean 5 February, 2011 09:38
I have been stung 5 times by this or maybe it was the black flower wasp with the irresent blue wings. The first 4 times I was clipping the hedge where they were. The last time I was hosing close to the hedge. Could the hot weather cause them to be aggressive?
reply
carol 10 February, 2011 10:40
Hello, I live in the postcode of 2905 and I also have noticed a lot of these wasps. The wings on these wasps in our garden are a beautiful shiny blue color. Absolutely beautiful. I am glad they are a native insect.
reply
Yves 11 February, 2011 23:19
There is one in the veranda right now and I live in Switzerland and it's Winter. Srtange! to say the least...
reply
rebecca 16 February, 2011 20:53
thank you for this info!! we have had alot of problems with bee's and wasps in the past couple of years. its nice to have a "friendly" wasp in the front yard! we have anywhere between 5-20 at anytime! if they dont have a nest or a colony where do they live??
reply
Ross 21 February, 2011 10:40
It is a pity the "official" photograph doesn't show the brilliant colour of the wings. I assume it is a structural colour and not a pigment.Perhaps the photo is at the wrong angle to show the colour, or perhaps the structure changes post-mortem and the colour is no longer there.The colour of the wings is what attracted me to the wasp.
reply
Lydia 21 February, 2011 15:08
Got a shock to see this big insect today -postcode 2035 sydney - they maybe transmit a noise?? As from nowhere my cat appeared and was mesmerised by the wasp. Then decided to swat it and it flew away, glad he wasn't stung!
reply
Discovery Centre 24 February, 2011 15:28
Hi Rebecca, I presume that these wasps when not searching for food for themselves or their young would simply rest in a sheltered, protected spot. We have seen them flying but have not been able to find concrete information on where they reside. Perhaps on the underside of leaves or in dense shrubs or under loose bark etc. 
reply
Discovery Centre 24 February, 2011 16:21
Hi Ross, we agree with you, the colour seen on the wings of the live specimens is quite amazing and more eye catching than seen on our dead, pinned specimen as shown here.   
reply
Geoff 8 March, 2011 16:07
For the past 22 years of living in Diamond Creek (3089), I have never seen these wasps before, it has only been in the last 3 to 4 weeks that they have appeared in our garden. The bright blueish colour of their wings is amazing. They are buzzing around an old tree stump and flowering plants in the garden. Normally we have heaps of European wasps but not many this year.
reply
Anita Allen 29 March, 2011 17:43
Thank you for your prompt reply and for helping us to identify the flower wasp.Such beautiful colours on the wings. We shall watch out for more of them.
reply
Elaine Cochrane 20 December, 2011 09:50
Thank you for identifying the ginormous orange-and-black wasp I've seen a few times lately in Greensborough 3088. I was familiar with the beautiful blue-black Scolia soror but this new visitor is even larger and more impressive. So far I haven't had a good look because it's been in flight (about head-height), but the size, heavy build and colour mean it is almost certainly Campsomeris.
reply
Andrew MacGregor 3 February, 2012 12:39
We live in Lilydale. They first appeared, last summer, in one small spot in our garden. They are back this year in greater numbers; maybe 40 or 50. They buzz around, in these great numbers, beside an old tree stump and a heavily mulched garden. They are slowly migrating to other parts of our garden.
reply
Stephen 16 February, 2012 11:41
I just shoo'd one of these out of the kitchen (before I read this post). It was about 3cm in length and quite loud! Had found its way between a kitchen window and the timber blind and couldn't get back out. Managed to get the window open and off it went. First time I've seen one here, post code 3018. Considering the size, I'm so glad to hear they aren't aggressive.
reply
Helen 17 February, 2012 19:09
I saw one for the fist time today and the blue was iridescent so vivid against the black body. It was near a park in Hawthorn. It wasnt aggressive and allowed me to take close up photos of it before it flew away. I love that it is a native.
reply
dave 9 March, 2012 18:52
I had up to twenty Scolia soro flying around my agapanthus about a month ago, postcode 2756, as per Luke mentioned from 2905. Right near front gate with bark chip present; however bark chip present in other parts of the yard too, so I think maybe it is something with the agapanthus that were in full fower at the time. I have also noticed a white grub in the soil in this area of the yard when digging, so quite possible that they are hatching in this area assuming the adult female can dig into soil as well as rotting timber to lay larva eggs in grub. Delighted they are native. I bet my butcher birds and noisy miners got a few, although i did not observe that happening....
reply
Susan 14 March, 2012 15:35
Many bees seeking nectar in sedums were suddenly joined by huge monster wasp(out of Dr Who). Scolia shiny black with vivid peacock blue wings pushed over top of bees but showed no aggression. Let me take photograph although I was terrified! 3.5 cm+ Will Scolia sting harm a habitual bee hunting Border Collie? Thanks. Susan Postcode 3142
reply
Discovery Centre 14 March, 2012 15:59
Hi Susan,
The above article states that the Scolia is not an aggressive wasp because unlike the honey bee or a paper wasp, flower wasps do not have a nest or colony to protect. It will therefore not attack people or animals for just being nearby their food sources.
The only way that your Border Collie could get stung by a flower wasp is if it was to accidently stand or sit on it. If this does occur we recommend that you seek veterinary advice.
reply
Lindsay 14 January, 2013 18:21
These wasps are beautiful. I have been observing them in our front garden (postcode 3131) for some years now. They love the grubs living underneath logs in our garden. These hairy flower wasps I noticed in the museum today, so now I know their name. They visit our garden during late summer each year and fly around our shrubs. Strange I haven't seen them on flower yet. I'll keep looking. They do appear scary, but after videoing one looking for grubs on the ground I'm less nervous around them. Thanks for the info on your site and the museum.
reply
qais 27 June, 2013 23:48
THANK YOU
reply