I was introduced to sand wasps (Bembix sp) by Mike Arduser when he came to visit the Platte River Prairies back in 2012. As we stood together in a sand prairie, a bee-like creature was zipping around us with incredible speed. Mike explained that it was a sand wasp, and that it wasn’t interested in us, but rather was looking for flies that might be hanging around us. Since that day, I’ve paid much more attention to sand wasps and have seen them all over the place in sandy places.
While we were exploring a big sand blowout last week at the Niobrara Valley Preserve, there were lots of sand wasps buzzing around, and we found some of their nest burrows. I took a little time to sit near a couple nests and photograph the females as they worked to excavate them. The wind appeared to be blowing just as much sand back into the holes as the bees were digging out…
The video below shows both the blowing sand and the valiant effort of the wasp to excavate its burrow despite the wind. If the video doesn’t appear correctly, try clicking on the title of this post to view it through an internet browser.
Mike tells me these sand wasps and their relatives catch and paralyze flies for their young. They lay eggs in their burrows and provide the flies as food for the larvae. Females, of course, do all the work to create the burrows, catch the flies and lay the eggs. The males are just around for mating purposes. While the wasp larvae eat flies, both the adult males and females feed on nectar and pollen.
Here are a few more images of the sand wasps we saw last week, along with the blowout they were living in.
As often happens with invertebrates, once I’ve been introduced to a creature, I start seeing it everywhere. Even better, I’ve yet to meet an invertebrate that doesn’t have a fascinating background story. It’s an awesome world we live in, and we share it with some pretty great neighbors.
Thanks, as always, to Mike Arduser for his help with identification and ecology.