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Species Brachygastra mellifica - Mexican Honey Wasp

Mexican Honey Wasp - Brachygastra mellifica Mexican Honey Wasp - Brachygastra mellifica 20160818CH01 - Brachygastra mellifica - female Unknown wasp (bee mimic) - Brachygastra mellifica Brachygastra mellifica - female Brachygastra mellifica? - Brachygastra mellifica - female Flower Fly 2025 - Brachygastra mellifica Brachygastra mellifica  - Brachygastra mellifica
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies)
No Taxon (Aculeata - Ants, Bees and Stinging Wasps)
Superfamily Vespoidea
Family Vespidae (Hornets, Yellowjackets; Paper, Potter, Mason, and Pollen Wasps; and Allies)
Subfamily Polistinae (Paper Wasps)
Genus Brachygastra (Honey Wasps)
Species mellifica (Mexican Honey Wasp)
Other Common Names
Mexican Bee
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Chartergus arizonaensis Cameron 1907
Explanation of Names
Brachygastra mellifica (Say 1837)
mellifica 'honey making'
7-9 mm

Det. K. Wolgemuth, 2017
s. AZ, c. TX to Panama - Map (Sugden & McAllen 1994)(1)
two AZ records, both from Nogales, Santa Cruz Co., one from ca. 1907 (Cameron, 1907) and the second record from 2017 (BG data)
current northern-most records from Berry Springs Park and Preserve in Williamson Co. near the city of Georgetown, Texas as of 2020. (2)
Occurs in all but the driest habitats(3)
Nest placement is in the midcanopy of a tree or shrub from 1 to 9 m above ground level. Nests are sparse and difficult to find in native brush but relatively common in suburban settings where they are easily spotted in deciduous trees in winter. (Sugden & McAllen 1994)
Larvae feed on honey(3), and probably also pollen; this is unusual for vespids.
Life Cycle
Eusocial, with worker and reproductive castes. More than one queen per hive, and there are females present with ovaries intermediate in size between workers and queens. Form large colonies by swarming (coordinated groups of queens and workers). Store honey, but do not cap cells, as do bees. Nests are perennial, built in low trees, with as many as 50,000 cells.(4)(5)
One of the very few insects other than bees to produce and store honey.
"They are docile a lot, but then they can explode, attacking en masse." (Joan Strassmann, pers. comm. to MAQ)
nests can be surprisingly large. Frank A. Eischen (pers. comm. to MAQ, July 2007) reported finding occupied nests as long as about three feet.
See Also

Pachodynerus nasidens (Eumeninae) - the first metasomal segment is wider, the second has punctation throughout. Range: s. TX, s. FL (BG data)

Pachodynerus pulverulentus (Eumeninae) - the first metasomal segment is wider, the second has punctation only at the posterior margin. Range: CA to NV & TX

Hoplitimyia mutabilis (Syrphidae) - as a fly, has the hind wings modified as halteres. Range: AZ, TX-FL
Print References
Cameron, P. 1907. On some North American species of Chartergus. Invertebrata Pacifica 1: 181-183. (Full Text)
Hastings, M.D., D.C. Queller, F. Eischen & J.E. Strassmann. 1998. Kin selection, relatedness and worker control of reproduction in a large-colony epiponine wasp, Brachygastra mellifica. Behavioral Ecology, 9(6): 573-581.
Hogue, C. 1993. Latin American Insects and Entomology. University of California Press, Berkeley. xiv + 594 pp. (3)
Naumann, M.G. 1968. A revision of the genus Brachygastra (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). U. Kansas Sci. Bull. 47: 929-1003. (Full Text)
Schwarz, H.F. 1929. Honey wasps. Natural History, 29(4): 421-426.
Sugden, E.A. and R.L. McAllen. 1994. Observations on foraging, population and nest biology of the Mexican honey wasp, Brachygastra mellifica (Say) in Texas (Vespidae: Polybiinae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 67(2): 141-155. (JSTOR)
Internet References
Texas Entomology - Mike Quinn, 2008
Works Cited
1.Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)
3.Latin American Insects and Entomology
Charles L. Hogue. 1994. University of California Press.
4.The Wasps
Howard Ensign Evans, Mary Jane West Eberhard. 1970. University of Michigan Press.
5.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.