Entomology (Study of Bugs)/An Insect

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Question
There were 3 campers of us staying at Lathrop this past weekend and we were fascinated by an insect (actually many of them)that dug a hole and an hour or so later returned with a caterpillar and buried it in the hole. It was not a bee but seemed similar to a dragon fly with all the larger part of the body up front and below the wings. It then was very narrow until the very end, maybe a quarter of an inch, which was flattened and black. All the regular bugs that do this that I see on the web are not the ones we saw. We were so entertained and amazed. I wish I'd taken a photo but didn't realize I would have had time.  Oh the insect was about and inch and a half long. I hope you can help because I'd love to tell the rest of the family what we saw, and what will come out of the holes. I realized that the caterpillars were probably food for the babies as I thought about it, but we had never seen anything do this. Now I see there are many insects that did holes and put caterpillars in them!!  Thank you.  Liz Hook

Answer
Hi, Liz.

Was this in Lathrop State Park here in Colorado?  Not sure exactly the geographic location....but, I am pretty sure I know what you saw.

There are many species of caterpillar-hunting wasps in the genera Ammophila and Podalonia .  Here are links to some of my blog posts on these:

http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2011/06/wasp-wednesday-podalonia.html

http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2015/04/grand-theft-caterpillar-caught-on-video.html

http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2014/01/ammophila-in-action.html

http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2010/12/wasp-wednesday-ammophila-nigricans.html

http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2010/11/wasp-wednesday-ammophila-pictipennis.html

http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2010/11/wasp-wednesday-ammophila-procera.html

http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2010/11/wasp-wednesday-ammophila-aberti.html

Both kinds of wasps have similar life histories, as you observed firsthand!  Thank you for sharing your story!

Eric

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Eric R. Eaton

Expertise

I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.

Experience

Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Publications
Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Education/Credentials
Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for AllExperts.com, 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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