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Ammophila sp. - Ammophila - female

Ammophila sp. - Ammophila - Female
Wagon Road Canyon area, near Lockwood Valley Road, elev. ~4800 feet., Ventura County, California, USA
May 23, 2006
Size: ~22mm
I'm posting this here on the chance that someone might know the species - probably a slim chance.

I observed this female for nearly 27.5 minutes, from when I first saw it with its prey (Lepidopteran caterpillar?).
It took 4 min. 11 secs. to carry the caterpillar to its covered burrow (over an est. distance of 30 feet), about 50 seconds in all to remove rocks from entrance, drag prey down - incl. a failed trial -, and 22 minutes 23 secs. to carry small rocks in order to fill the burrow. These rocks were not just thrown down, but actually carried down. The last rocks were jiggled until they fit just right. Its offspring (eggs were probably posited before searching for food) now have a pretty good larder.
Just think about the environmental pressures (e.g. predation of eggs) that helped select for this behavior.
Might post a couple more images later.

Images of this individual: tag all
Ammophila sp. - Ammophila - female Ammophila sp. - Ammophila - female Ammophila sp. - Ammophila - female Ammophila sp. - Ammophila - female Ammophila sp. - Ammophila - female

reminds me of A. parapolita
of the species I know; note that I NOT very familiar with the CA species so am not asserting that it really is this species. Comparisons to the LACM or Riverside collections would be helpful

Thanks everyone
for your interest, and Jack for the reference (no, I haven't read that book).
I was spellbound following the actions of this little insect. Though I assumed it was aiming for its burrow, I had no idea where that was. It made a number of stops along the way, then at times lift its load in a short flight. When it dropped the caterpillar and lifted a couple of small pebbles, I suddenly saw the entrance to the burrow. What a sense of orientation!

Great photos and info
I have read about this behavior but never seen it, I wish I had a chance sometime, well worth it spending one hour observing.

Terrific notes and photos!


Stephen Cresswell
Buckhannon, WV

yes, ditto
Great series and observations.
I also highly recommend the Howard Evans book. I was in the middle of reading Wasp Farm when I saw my first Ammophila in action. It was one of the highlights of my year.

Yes, lovely photo and inspiri
Yes, lovely photo and inspiring, detailed observation. Do you know the old classic book Wasp Farm by Howard Evans? If not, you might enjoy his Chapter 6 "Ammophila: Wasp & Legend" where he discusses the complexities of their burying with a focus on actions very like those you are describing, the careful placement of the pebbles over the nest. Amazing behavior! Thanks for detailing it.

I second what Stephen said. Great job!

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