A little cuckoo

“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature, Chapter 3)

The insects in the field were quite different near the end of September and the Goldenrod was the place to be. This metallic, sparkly blue-green beauty is a Cuckoo Wasp that I saw in the field on October 1st. It didn’t seem to mind how close I got with the camera.

Cuckoo Wasps are loners and their name originates from the fact that they lay their eggs in the nests of other solitary wasps and bees. They survive by eating not only their host’s food and using their nest, but also by eating the host’s larvae. 1 So, not the greatest house guests to say the least! They are about half a inch long, and apparently curl up in a ball when frightened.

They are also called Jewel or Emerald Wasps, which seems especially fitting, too.


1. Storer, T. & Usinger, R. (1963). Sierra Nevada Natural History. California: University of California Press.

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13 Responses to “A little cuckoo”
  1. donald says:

    wow, what incredible colors! i don’t believe i have ever seen one of them, just beautiful!

  2. sandy says:

    I would remember if I had ever seen one. They are pretty, but I agree with you, not such great visitors.

    Great photography, by the way.

  3. Cait says:

    Donald: The colour really is amazing. Thanks Donald, first time for me seeing one, too!

    Sandy: Thanks! Yes, they are pretty memorable. I saw it out of the corner of my eye while I was photographing something else. You never know what you’re going to find!

  4. montucky says:

    Interesting! They are very pretty little creatures, and your photos of them are superb!

  5. Barbara says:

    Oh, my favorite shades of blue and green! What an attractive little creature! “…every hour, a picture which was never seen before…” Perfect quote – I love it! I wonder, do they sting humans? I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an insect with these colors before…

  6. Cait says:

    Montucky, thank you for coming by and for your kind comment!

    Barbara, I’ve read conflicting reports about whether they can sting, but the entomologist and author who writes the blog, Bug Eric, has a post on Cuckoo Wasps and said that they are sting-less (http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2010/05/cuckoo-for-cuckoo-wasps.html). Thanks for the lovely comment.

  7. barb says:

    What incredible photography – luckily the wasp wasn’t fearful of you! It reminds me of an ornamental pin.

  8. I’m just astonished by the colour of this cuckoo wasp, Cait. There is something so entrancing about it, like it was decked out in stardust. And the size of the eye in comparison to its body is curious – I wonder if the fact that it uses other wasp’s nests and needs to visually identify the different species has anything to do with it. Glorious images of it you’ve taken….

    • Cait says:

      Julian, stardust does seem like the perfect word for this. I didn’t come across anything about the size of its eyes, but your theory is interesting and something I’ll have to look into further (or maybe someone reading this will know and share with us). Thanks so much for your comment!

  9. lolly0 says:

    I’m new to your blog, I just subscribed! I’ve never seen this kind of wasp in my life, what a gorgeous color!

  10. Beautiful Fall colors. Amazing close-up photos (sorry, I can’t think of the correct term for such photography). I look forward to your future posts, words and images. Please keep doing what you do.

  11. Cait says:

    Thanks for the kind comments, lolly and william!

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