Black-and-White Waspish Thing: Xiphydriid Wood Wasp

2014 September 10

I found this black and white not-quite-wasp on some animal droppings in the woods on August 17, 2013. The droppings were full of berry remains, and so I suspect that they were something like raccoon or skunk droppings.

It looked kind of like a sawfly, except that the head was too round (and, in fact, from the side it looks a lot like the way Mo Willems draws pigeon heads.

It wasn’t too big, here it is on my knuckle. It looks to be around half an inch long.

The rather striking black-and-white striping, and the white antennae, are pretty distinctive. It’s a really good match for a Xiphydriid wood wasp, specifically Xiphydria maculata

These are hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, sawflies, horntails, etc.), but not one of the stinging kinds. These lay their eggs in dead, decaying wood of deciduous trees (not pine or other conifers). This particular species prefers maple. Their ovipositors are not too large, and look mostly suited for laying eggs in somewhat rotted, softened wood.

So, they are pretty innocuous, and their main effect is to help the decomposition of dead wood. And to act as hosts for parasitic wasps, but that could be said of almost any insect.

3 Responses
  1. September 10, 2014

    Wow, those are some amazing shots of a very stylish little wasp. Where I live (CA), berry-filled pooped very frequently means a fox has been around. They eat a LOT of berries.

  2. September 10, 2014

    It hadn’t even occurred to me that fruit-filled droppings might be from foxes. But I suppose the fable of “The Fox and the Grapes” must have been based on at least some knowledge of the eating habits of foxes. And we certainly do have foxes around – they sometimes try to get at the chickens, or the birds at our feeder.

  3. Carole permalink
    September 10, 2014

    Very stylish wasp. Droppings could be opossum, too.

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