- Habitat: Various habitats where scarab hosts are found
- Range: Worldwide mainly in tropical regions
- Size: 10 - 56mm (3/8 - 2 1/4 inch)
- Species: 350
- Family: Scoliidae
These wasps are massive and you must take caution when getting near one. They are notorious for their stings and there is little that stands in their way.
Mammoth wasps are enormous as the name suggests and are the largest family of wasps on the planet. Some are only 10mm big while others grow as large as 56mm. Their stings are extremely painful. There is only a few species of wasp that is bigger than the mammoth family and they are the larger wasps of the Spider-Hunting family. Pepsis heros in particular dwarfs the Mammoth wasps measuring the length of 70mm. The Mammoth wasps will not be seen in your back garden, unless you live out in the tropics. Many species come from the forests of Brazil, Borneo, Malaysia and South America. The front legs of the females are short and powerful. Most are dark in color sometimes black. Generally the ends of the wings are clear and smokey and sometimes metallic blue. The body is densely covered with dark or golden colored hair. The male Mammoth wasps are smaller and slimmer than their female counterparts. The females also have longer and thicker antennae. In both sexes, there is a pronounced notch on the inside margin of the eye.
The Megascolia maculata also known as Scolia maculata, shown above has yellow markings on its back and is the largest solitary wasp in Europe. It inhabits the mountains and parasitises the Rhinoceros beetle. The Scolia dubia pictured left, is found across New England to Florida. It has blue wings and a red tail with yellow markings on it. The females hunt for the green June beetle and the Japanese beetle. Many like the Scolia procer from the forests of Borneo and Java have red markings to warn off predators. A lot of Mammoth wasps are metallic colored or have a bright sheen to them. The Scolia peregrina from Peru has dark brown wings laced with a dark purple metallic sheen.
Mammoth wasps are parasitic meaning their use the larvae of other insects as food so that the female does not have to feed her young. After mating the female scuffles around leaf litter or sometimes digs in the earth in search of nests made by beetles. When it finds one nests where a beetle larvae is growing, the Mammoth wasp paralyses the beetle larvae with its venomous sting and lays one single egg next to the beetle larvae. Paralysed, the beetle larvae does not grow well and develop and remains in its juvenile state. The Mammoth wasp larvae on the other hand grows and soon hatches from its egg. When it does it devours the beetle larvae which has been kept fresh to eat. It eats everything but the skin of the beetle larvae and uses this carcass as part of its cocoon that it wraps itself into. When ready and fully grown the creature emerges as a powerful adult Mammoth wasp.
Males and Females
The females are much larger and more aggressive than the males. The females tend to have yellow or orange markings on their heads where as the males have darker-colored heads. The Mammoth wasps are also known as Scarab-Hunter wasps as many hunt the Scarab beetle which hide under the undergrowth and vegetation.
The larvae of the Mammoth wasp has a fat white body with a dark brown head, tiny dimples and small hairs. They feed exclusively on beetle larvae.
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Mammoth Wasps: Scoliidae: discover the fascinating lives of the various types of bees and wasps in the world.