Red-and-Black Mason Wasp (Pachodynerus erynnis)
Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Red-and-Black Mason Wasp.
Updated: 5/22/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Bold alarm coloring and unusually tinted wings make the Red-and-Black Mason Wasp a standout among wasps in the Southeast.
Bright red bands and antennae alert observers to keep their distance, but this species shows little interest in people. It is not an aggressive species of wasp and may abandon its nest before protecting it, but if physically harassed, it can defend itself. Like other Mason wasps, females craft a nest of earth, plant debris and resin for egg-laying only, not as homes. Adults are solitary and do not live in huge groups. A nest is typically small and filled with many small cells, each with room for a single fertilized egg laid on an insect host to feed on. Sometimes old nests of other wasp species are reused, saving the female the energy of creating a new one. The parent hunts for a food source that will sustain the larva once it hatches. Caterpillars are the most common meal choice, but beetle grubs may also suffice. A paralyzing sting keeps the caterpillar alive and immobile, allowing the wasp larva to eat during its development stage. Look for nests around homes and buildings at the corners, and under siding. Another popular location is at the base of chimneys on rooftops.
Red-and-Black Mason Wasps are the only red and black members of its genus; all others are either yellow and black, or white and black. They have round red knobs where the wings attach to the body. Wings are reddish-orange near the body and become a translucent black with a purple-blue sheen that almost gives them a metallic tint. A thick red band just below the 'waist' is followed by a solid black area on the abdomen. A thinner red band on the abdomen is closer to the tip. Legs and the base of antennae are red. The head is completely black. They may be spotted visiting flowers for nectar.
Because of the larval diet, adult and larval Red-and-Black Mason Wasps are considered beneficial insects to have around the garden or farm. Together, by hunting and consuming foliage-eating caterpillars, parent and offspring reduce the number of pest insects that harm produce and food harvests. Adults also play a role in pollination due to their desire to visit a variety of flowers to drink nectar.