Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A wasp hunkering down for the winter?

   I was examining a moss-covered, fallen log when I noticed an orange ichneumon wasp with a black head and banded wings.  I suspect this wasp, a Acrotaphus wiltii, was searching for its winter hibernation site.  I'm going with this theory, because this late in October, it seems too late for the wasp to be hunting for an orb-weaver spider to parasitize.
  I was down on my knees looking closely at this well-rotted log covered with moss when I saw this ichneumon wasp.  I was in a valley were the winter sun hardly shines. The lack of sunlight in combination with the thick moss covering the punky wood, makes the log a place where moisture would remain fairly constant.  There are various species of ichneumon wasps that choose localities like this for a place to spend the winter months.
   Contrast this old soggy log with the site where other species of hibernating ichneumon wasps (I wrote about last winter) were spending the long, cold winter under moss on rocks of ridge top.  Ichneumon wasps have a variety of settings for their hibernacula.
   The cool, late October weather was taking a toll on this wasp.  It groggily crawled along, allowing me to snap a few pictures.
This slender, orange wasp's body is about a half inch long.  With antennae and ovipositor, it measures about an inch.
The wasp didn't pose nicely for me, but did kindly display its translucent, black-banded wings.
I wonder if there are other ichneumon wasps hunkering down for the winter under the moss of this log?
There's a good chance... and the log holds many other marvels to sidetrack the hiker.

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