Argogorytes mystaceus (Linnaeus,1761)

Synonyms

Vespa campestris Linnaeus, 1761; Vespa inimica M. Harris, 1776; Sphex longicornis Rossi, 1790; Crabro bicinctus Fabricius, 1793; Mellinus arpactus Fabricius, 1804; Vespa flavicincta Donovan, 1808; Gorytes tonsus Bondroit, 1933; Argogorytes hispanicus Yildirim and Ljubomirov, 2005; Gorytes grandis Gussakovskij, 1932

 

Description and notes

Distribution

Widespread in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland (Richards 1980). Clearly less frequently found in northern parts of northern England, and Scotland. Abroad, the species is found throughout much of the Palaearctic region, eastwards to the Pacific Ocean (Lomholdt, 1975-76).

Status (in Britain only)

This species is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.

Habitat

These wasps occur in sunny places, not necessarily sandy, and particularly in deciduous woodland and edges. Very much a species of sunny glades with tall, rank vegetation (M Edwards, pers. comm.).

Flight period

Univoltine; late April to June, exceptionally to September (Richards, 1980).

Prey collected

The species preys on frog-hopper nymphs (Homoptera: Cercopidae), especially those of Philaenus spumarius. The Argogorytes female is reported to land on the plant stem, walk to the spittle and then plunge her legs and sting into it (Adlerz, cited by Evans, 1966).

Nesting biology

The nest is dug in soil in dry banks in moist woodland glades (M Edwards, pers. comm.). It consists of a main burrow reaching a length of 10 cm vertically into the ground and then continuing in a fairly horizontal plane where there are several cells (Lomholdt, 1975-76). After the initial cell is constructed, prey is brought to the nest, carried in flight between the middle legs. The egg is laid on the outside of one of the hind coxae of the first prey in the cell (unusual in the Gorytini, where it is usually laid on the last). The burrow is left open whilst provisioning takes place. From 19-27 bug nymphs may be provisioned per cell (according to Adlerz) and then the next cell is constructed.

Flowers visited

Females have been sighted visiting wood spurge and honeydew on sweet chestnut leaves (pers. obs.). They are also known to visit umbellifer flowers. Males are important polllinators of the fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera). The male seeks out the flower mainly by its scent, which closely resembles the female sex attractant pheromone, and attempts to copulate with it. During this process the male receives one, or both, pollinia, which may then be transferred to the stigma of another flower (Kullenberg, 1961; Evans & Eberhard, 1970).

Parasites

Argogorytes mystaceus is a host of the cleptoparasitic nyssonine wasp, Nysson spinosus. Miltogrammine flies are also probable parasitoids.

Author of profile

G W Allen.

Year profile last updated

2001

Proofed: March 2012