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Cuckoo Wasp (Various spp.)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Cuckoo Wasp

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Image Credit: Ann S., taken in the Rachel Carson Conservation Park, Olney, MD
Full-sized image of the Cuckoo-Wasp Thumbnail image of the Cuckoo-Wasp
Image Credit: Ann S., taken in the Rachel Carson Conservation Park, Olney, MD
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Image Credit: Peter S. from Acton, MA
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Image Credit: DDT Photography
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The bright, metallic shades of Cuckoo Wasps make these little jewels easy to spot despite their small stature.

Updated: 04/08/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Cuckoo Wasps get their name thanks to their parenting strategy. Similar to the Cuckoo bird, Cuckoo Wasps lay their eggs in the nests of other bees. When a Cuckoo Wasp larva hatches, it eats the other bee larvae and then consumes the stores of food left in the nest. Because of this behavior, the Cuckoo Wasp is a parasite to a variety of other bee and wasp species. Even the eggs of Walkingsticks are not off limits.

The adult Cuckoo Wasp may be an emerald, gold, or garnet color, and has black eyes, wings, and legs. It is tiny compared to other bees, but its dimpled, shimmering body is bright enough to attract attention. Adults drink flower nectar and have very small stingers. They tend to curl up when threatened if they are unable to escape. They are active during the summer and can be found in a wide variety of habitats and natural areas, but are often seen visiting flowers.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Shiny insect icon
Insect stinger icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Acari
        Family: Chrysididae
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          Genus: Various
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            Species: spp.

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Various spp.
Other Name(s): Gold Wasps
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 5mm to 8mm (0.19" to 0.31")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: green; black; blue; gold; red
Descriptors: flying; stinging; metallic; gold; emerald; bumpy; shiny; bee

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 5mm (0.2in) and 8mm (0.3in)
Lo: 5mm
Md: 6.5mm
Hi: 8mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Cuckoo Wasp may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Cuckoo Wasp. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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