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 to check 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 thanks to visits to a variety of flowers in order to drink nectar.
Scientific Name: Pachodynerus erynnis
Other Name(s): Red-Marked Pachodynerus
Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 9mm to 11mm (0.35in to 0.43in)
Colors: black, red
Descriptors: pentagon, blue wings, flying, stinging, helpful
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Ant, Bee, and Wasp Anatomy
Antennae: Ants and Bees both have a pair of antennae on the head that senses their surroundings.
Head: The head contains the insect's compound eyes, antennae, and mandibles.
Thorax: Contains various vital parts such as the aorta and nervous system.
Abdomen: Contains various organs including the heart, gut, venom glands, and anus.
Legs: Ants and Bees have three pairs of legs attached to the thorax (center-body section).
NOTE: Ants, Bees and Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order because they share many similarities.