Cryptopod: Wanna-be-a-Zebra

There are many patterns in nature that repeat. There’s probably a reason for them, but being more into geology, I’m not sure what many of them are. Take this little cryptopod sent in by RowanVT: I think part of it wants to be a zebra.

Silly wasp or bee or whatever you are. You’re not a zebra. Even if you do have zebra stripes on your rear.

Image shows a wasp or bee going in to a hole in the dirt. It's got yellow legs and a zebra-striped butt.
Cryptopod I

You live in a hole in the ground. Zebras don’t live in the ground.

Side view showing a large green eye and hairy shoulders.
Cryptopod II

You have antennae. Zebra don’t have antennae!

Cryptopod III
Cryptopod III

You have yellow legs. Zebras don’t have yellow legs! Also, you have six of them. Zebras have only four (sometimes less, if a lion’s bitten one off).

Cryptopod IV
Cryptopod IV

Now your stripes look yellow! Zebra stripes don’t look yellow. Not unless a lion’s peed on them or something.

Cryptopod V
Cryptopod V

You have thin, clear wings. Zebras don’t have wings of any sort.

Cryptopod VI
Cryptopod VI

You have eyes as big as your head. Zebras don’t have eyes that big. I don’t think you’re a zebra at all, little wasp-bee-thingy.

Cryptopod: Wanna-be-a-Zebra

11 thoughts on “Cryptopod: Wanna-be-a-Zebra

  1. rq

    I think what you have there is a sand wasp. Very pretty:

    Although sand wasps are normally yellow and black, some sand wasps are black and white with bright green eyes.

    Can’t narrow it down to species, but whatever it thinks it is, it is beautiful. Nice catch, rowan!

  2. 3

    Thanks! These little things are amazingly docile which is why I was willing and able to get close enough to get such photos. They were a fixture of sandbox playgrounds when I was a child. I was thrilled when the showed up in my campsite.

  3. 6

    Definitely Bembix. If it were in Seattle, I’d say it’s probably Bembix americana (they’re pretty common around here and they look just like that) but I don’t have a key handy to be sure.

    They’re mostly harmless unless you grab or sit on one. That’s actually true of most solitary hymenoptera — it’s only the social ones that can afford a suicidal nest defense.

    Bembix anecdote: they nest in large numbers above the beach (such as it is) in Myrtle Edwards Park, also known as the venue for the Seattle Hempfest. Apparently some of the local wares enhance people’s appreciation of wasp nesting behavior (mostly digging and trying to steal flies from each other.) You don’t often see an aggregation of people watching an aggregation of insects as though it were another group of buskers on the waterfront, but wait a couple of weeks and it will probably happen around sunset…

  4. 7

    My first thought was that it was a fly masquerading as a wasp, but the closer pictures show otherwise. Those flies were pretty common on another of our area beaches I used to frequent. The two (instead of four) wings give the game away.

  5. 8

    Nope. There were a half dozen of these little critters at my camp site. I was unsure if the color variation was due to age, simple variation, sexual dimorphism, etc.

  6. 11

    Yup, these are sand wasps. Specifically, they’re female sand wasps digging their nesting burrows. If you think of them as mini Tarantula Hawks, that’ll give you a pretty good idea of their behavior, except that they provision their burrows with paralyzed flies rather than tarantulas. Here in Arizona, sand wasps often occur in mixed colonies with the lovely Ammophila aberti thread-waisted wasp (I’ll send you a pic), and at least two species of velvet ants make a good part of their living by digging up the burrows and eating the contents. High drama on a tiny scale!

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