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Mysterious wasp makes a deposit on prime OC real estate - female

Mysterious wasp makes a deposit on prime OC real estate - Female
Shipley Nature Center, Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, USA
December 17, 2008
While this older encila location is getting a bit, well, seedy, it has proven desirable with a young harlequin, older broken-back bug, tiny true bug nymph, and yet another ovipositing wasp. I'm figuring ichneumon here and no ID past that, but sincerely hope you can prove me wrong. (Neat wasp, at any rate.)

Images of this individual: tag all
Mysterious wasp makes a deposit on prime OC real estate - female Identity sought for mysterious wasp - female Identity sought for mysterious wasp - female Identity sought for mysterious wasp - female Identity sought for mysterious wasp - female

Got a chuckle
reading your comments, Ron, wonderful! Heading out of town, but was looking at some photos because of a wasp that might fit into the same subfamily. See here.

Moved from Ichneumon Wasps.

Difficult to be sure without a good view of the wing venation, but other features of this subfamily including coloration, an exerted ovipositor, a slender polished appearance, a depressed cylindric abdomen with surface impressions, and a smooth mesoscutum seem to point to this group. Females are very diverse in terms of host selection.

See reference here.

If you can figure out what hidden creature is the object of this wasps's desire, that insect could be looked up in the good old Catalog of Hymenoptera for a list of potential suspects who use that host... I got a probable ID that way for some ichneumons I reared from a promethea moth cocoon a while back.

Good to know, but tough to find out.
A couple of years ago, I saw a different wasp ovipositing in the same type of plant. I'd guess aphids were the target in both cases, but have no substantiation.

To me it looks like...
the target is within the seed head, not on the surface, which makes me think of a weevil larva or something along those lines. I think it's usually the case that an ichneumon with an extra long ovipositor is going for something that lives within plant tissues, or some similar situation--the extreme example being Megarhyssa, with its five inch (or so) ovipositor for reaching horntail larvae deep within trees.

The species of weevil, or whatever, could maybe be guessed at based on the host plant, and some catalog comparable to the Hymenoptera one...

Interesting. You're quite the detective.
It may be worth noting that the fly Neotephritis finalis, commonly Sunflower Seed Maggot, was present elsewhere on this stand of bush sunflowers.

Detective work...
I have do resort to this sort of thing, since I don't know much about identifying bugs!

Alas, the Catalog just lists three chalcid species with that host, no ichneumons, so I don't have a further lead to offer. It could well be that that is the host, in which case the ichneumon's association with it remains to be discovered (or has been discovered in the 30 years since the Catalog was published).

Thanks very much for your insights and assistance.
I watch that type of flower a lot and have seen a different ichneumon and a wedge-shaped beetle ovipositing therein, but at different sites. However, this is the first wasp I've seen sticking its head into the flower, confirming your suspicions that it's looking inside.

Not just looking...
in the image above, the ovipositor is curved and appears to be at least partly inserted.

I wonder if there could be a sunflower bud moth larva in there? Did you happen to notice any frass coming out of the bud? ...I guess that wouldn't help; I checked and there's just one braconid listed with that host.

ichneumonid is all i can tell

Thanks, v.
I'm glad to have verified what I'd expected. So often posts just sit there, without comment.

as always with these,
there's little hope for a good ID, despite its very distinct coloration

Just curious....Why is it difficult to ID this?
Is it because there are so many that have this type of coloration? Or is it because there are currently no experts in IDing ichneumons? Is it because there are a lot of undescribed species? Or some other reason?

There are about
3000 known North American ichneumon species, I believe. Probably many undescribed ones too. An ichneumon expert might well be able to name the subfamily or maybe genus from these images, but there aren't any that regularly visit BugGuide (and I think there aren't many ichneumon experts to begin with).

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