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Photo#934382
Hide & Seek with

Hide & Seek with "Fairy Ichneumonid" - Grotea californica - Male
Sweeney Ridge, San Mateo County, California, USA
June 22, 2013
Ahh...got it!! A decent shot! [Full-size image here]

Seen here on leaves of the native gooseberry Ribes menziesii.

I was mesmerized by these dainty ichneumonids, a number of which were floating gracefully from stem to stem in relatively dense coastal scrub on a warm, calm, summer day. Their motion was slow and lilting, with their conspicuous, arching, orange-ish antennae hypnotically waving back and forth as they flew. All this...together with the contrast between their relatively short, stocky wings and their long, lithe bodies and antennae...gave the delightful impression of being surrounded by tiny tinkerbell-like fairies!

The downside was they rarely would settle down to allow me to photograph them, and when the did they wouldn't stop moving...and would try to make sure there were stems and leaves between them and the camera! Although their flight was lilting, they were still too bouncy for me to frame and focus on well enough to get a decent "in-flight" photo. But I would love to capture their in-air grace!
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Regard the ID here, with so many ichneumonids out there, I figured it would be hopeless for me to try to figure these out. But with relatively little browsing of BugGuide images, I think I found it (and fairly quickly...I love BugGuide!!).

Grotea californica

That's always a reassuring epithet in these parts :-) I'm guessing that's the correct species here, but am not certain...the other species currently appearing on BugGuide (and even the other genus Labena in the subfamily Labeninae) look quite similar to me. I did find an old key by Rohwer from 1920 listing 4 species. But I can't confidently get a result from that key, and I don't know whether the circumscription and synonymy in the genus has changed since then.

Images of this individual: tag all
Hide & Seek with Hide & Seek with Hide & Seek with

Moved
Moved from Ichneumon Wasps.

 
Confirmation
As always, many thanks for your help Bob.

 
Males
Given that you seemed to be seeing multiple males, I wondered if it might have been because there was one or more females in the vicinity, and I guess that was the case, judging from your subsequent post.

 
Yes
There were definitely lots of males, and (at least one) female I photographed that day, just before noon. (Though I believe the 3 images here are all the same male...those photos (and more) were taken within 84 seconds of each other, and I distinctly remember tracking that single individual.)

So does the female emit a pheromone that brings out the males?

 
Pheromone
I am not sure how much is known about pheromone production bv female ichneumonids, but in the case of Megarhyssa it is pretty obvious because multiple males can be attracted by females before they even emerge, and in some cases a male will insert the metasoma into the emergence hole in an attempt to mate with the female before she emerges.

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