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Scoliid wasp - Megascolia maculata
Scoliid wasp - Megascolia maculata


Scoliid wasps
The scoliid wasps (Scoliidae) are a small family in the order Hymenoptera - unranked: wasps, ants and bees (Apocrita) – in the suborder Aculeata and the superfamily Vespoidea. The family Scoliidae is divided into 2 subfamilies, the Campsomerinae (synonym: Proscoliinae) and the Scoliinae. Both subfamilies together comprise about 300 species. 20 species from 6 different genera are known in North America.
Scoliidae are found almost everywhere in the world. Most species are resident in the tropics and subtropics. The European species are mostly confined to the warmer regions (the Mediterranean) where they are very common. In Great Britain and Northern Ireland they are almost entirely absent. While 8 species occur in France, there are only 2 in Central Europe, and these are uncommon. Scoliidae living in the temperate zones usually produce 1 new generation per year. However, 2 or 3 broods per year are possible - this has been observed among the Campsomeris species in Korea.
Adult Scoliidae reach body lengths of 10-40 mm. While the females are stocky, the males appear smaller and slimmer. The basic colour of the body is black in most species. The upper surface is frequently marked with white, yellow, orange or red spots. The appearance of the males and females varies widely.
At present in Europe, the majority of scoliid wasp species are black and yellow. Male specimens of the subfamily Proscoliinae are almost uniformly black in colour, while females are predominantly of a reddish hue. Scoliidae are more or less hairy. The antennae of the males are straight and divided into 13 segments, while the shorter antennae of the female are heart-shaped or spiral and consist of 12 segments. The mouth parts include an extended proboscis even at the lower calyx which allows easier access to the nectar. Between the first and second segment (sternite) of the abdomen is a deep constriction.
Males and females of most species have colourful or dark wings. Only a few species (also differong by gender) have no wings. The fine, longitudinal veins in the tips of the fore wings and hind wings are an identifying characteristic. The markings on the wings may be more or less pronounced. Cubital veins run to the outer edge of the wings.
The first pair of legs are strongly built and ciliated. They help the Scoliidae to bury themselves in the ground. The burial, if it is not for the night only, especially in the female specimens allows access to the soil or rotting wood, where different species of scarab larvae live, which are amongst the preferred host animals of the Scoliid wasp’s larvae.
Scoliidae prefer warm temperatures. Adults (especially Campsomerinae) are flower visitors, feeding on nectar or honeydew. They are not aggressive.
After mating, the females lay their eggs, 2-4 mm in length (depending on the species, inside scarab or weevil larvae. The host larva is stung in the neck or chest area and is repeatedly kneaded with the mouth parts (mandibles). The females then build tunnels in the earth, sometimes to a depth of one metre beneath the surface of the soil, and drag the permanently paralyzed host larvae into these, depositing them at the end. The host larva are thus stowed in an "incubator". One egg is placed on each host insect. During a period of one to three months, Scoliidae females can lay 50 or more eggs. After egg laying the female leaves the tunnel.
The scoliid wasp larvae hatch after about 1 week, under favourable conditions. For 1 - 2 weeks they feed on the body fluids of the host larvae and from the 4th larval stage on they eat the rest of the host larvae. After their last larval stage, scoliid wasps pupate in cocoons, which are often reddish to brown in colour. The Scoliidae larvae of most Palearctic species overwinter in a preliminary pupae stage. About one month after hatching from the eggs, the adult Scoliidae of the new generation hatch from their cocoons.

Scoliidae are occasionally used by humans to combat grubs.
Further chapters of "Scoliid wasps"
- Mammoth wasp
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1. Scoliid wasp - Megascolia maculata
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