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Paper wasps are probably the most seen wasps seen in the Sonora Desert. They are large wasps that grow to be approximately 1 inch long. There are three main types of paper wasps that are seen in the desert: the yellow paper wasp, Navajo paper wasp, and the Arizona paper wasp (which is the smallest). Paper wasps construct their nests under eaves, tree branches, and vines. It is a carefully made thin paper-like material that is formed on the outside, containing many open cells. Sometimes it is possible to see little white, legless larvae in some of the cells. The nests differ in size; however most rarely get bigger than an outstretched hand and may contain 15-200 larvae in individual cells. Paper wasps are sensitive to disturbance and may be a problem in areas of human activity.
Scarab-hunter Wasp, Scoliid
Scarab Hunter Wasps are predators to white grubs of scarab beetles. They can be characterized by their yellow and grayish- black bodies, but are usually mistaken for yellow-jacket wasps (paper wasps). The female digs in soil or wood debris in search of the grub; when she finds the grub, she stings it and paralyzes it. The female scarab-hunter does not have a way to carry back its prey back to the nest, so she digs around the grub, forming a small chamber. The female then lays an egg on the grubs; then when the wasp larvae hatch, it feeds on the scarab until it becomes an adult. It then feeds on nectar. If the female scarab hunter is disturbed, she has the ability to sting and it is very painful.
Mud Dauber, Waisted Wasp
Mud daubers, often known as thread-waisted wasps are most known for their homes, which are made out of mud or clay attached to the eve of the house, or on the house itself. The homes are made in a way in which there are many cylinder-shaped cells built side by side until a large mass is formed; usually about the size of a softball. They create their homes to be smooth and plastered on the outer surface by rolling little mud balls to form a little dirt ball nest. The cells inside the nest are lined with insect larvae and spiders that were paralyzed by the female’s venom of which then a single egg is laid in an individual cell. Like the Tarantula-hawk wasp, mud daubers paralyze their prey and the larvae feeds on it until it is fully developed.
Pepsis Wasp, Tarantula-Hawk Wasp
The tarantula-hawk wasp is a large wasp that grows to be approximately 1-1/2 inches long. These wasps are distinguished by their velvety black bodies with yellowish orange wings. Tarantula-hawk wasps depend on the tarantula spider for its survival. The female wasp traps the tarantula and paralyzes it with her stinger. Once the spider is paralyzed, she quickly digs a hole, drags the spider inside, lays an egg, and then covers the hole. Once the egg hatches, the wasp larvae feeds on the tarantula until it is fully developed into the tarantula wasp; soon after it begins feeding on plant nectar. Tarantula- Hawk wasps are very common throughout the state of Arizona and are known to have the worst sting out of the bees and wasps in the state.