Tiphiidae hymenoptera Click to enlarge image
Flower Wasp, Tiphiidae hymenoptera Image: Bruce Hulbert
© Bruce Hulbert

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Super Family
    Vespoidea
    Suborder
    Apocrita
    Order
    Hymenoptera
    Class
    Insecta
    Subphylum
    Uniramia
    Phylum
    Arthopoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    2.5 cm - 3.0 cm

Introduction

Flower wasps are large, often metallic, solitary wasps, with species in the Families Scoliidae, Tiphiidae and Mutillidae.

Identification

Flower wasps are large solitary wasps, often with bright colours or a metallic appearance. Adult wasps are nectar feeders. They are often seen moving between flowers in mid- to late summer and they play an important role in pollinating native plants.



Habitat

Flower wasps are often seen in urban gardens, as well as living in forests, woodlands and heath.

Distribution

Flower wasps are found throughout Australia.

Feeding and diet

Female flower wasps dig through the soil to reach beetle larvae and other soil insects. When a grub is located, the wasp lays an egg on it, and the developing wasp larva then eats it. Adult wasps feed on nectar.

Other behaviours and adaptations

The body of female flower wasps is adapted for digging.

Life history cycle

Many species of flower wasps have wingless females (for example, the Blue Ant). In these species, mating occurs on the wing, with the male wasps carrying the female wasps. Some males actively feed the wingless females or carry them to food plants.

Danger to humans

Female flower wasps are capable of stinging if disturbed. As they are solitary insects, flower wasps do not pose the same level of threat to humans as social species of bees, ants or wasps do. However, unlike bees, wasps can sting more than once, and do not die after stinging. The sting causes a burning pain and swelling. If stings are multiple, a more severe systemic reaction may occur.

In some individuals, wasp, bee and ant stings can cause an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), but this is relatively uncommon. Effective treatment is available, which involves known bee/ant/wasp sting allergy sufferers carrying a special kit when outdoors. Immunotherapy or desensitisation is also available, and can reduce the severity of the allergy.

A cold pack may be used to relieve the pain of the sting. If there is evidence of a more severe reaction or the sting victim is known to be allergic to wasp and bee venom, medical attention should be sought immediately.

References

  • AGFACTS Information Leaflets
  • CSIRO. 1994. Insects of Australia.CSIRO Publishing.
  • Goode, J. 1980. Insects of Australia. Angus & Robertson, London
  • Hadlington, P. and J. Johnston. 1982. An Introduction to Australian Insects. UNSW Press, Sydney
  • Zbrowski, P. and R. Storey. 1995. A Field Guide to Insects in Australia. Reed Books, Sydney