The ecological interaction between chloropids and orchids, as revealed by Esther’s photographs, is exciting because it is so rarely documented, says Dr Terry Wheeler, director of the Lyman Entomological Museum at McGill University in Canada. She sent the pictures to Dr Dan Bickel, an entomologist at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Many thynnine wasps are black, but others are spectacularly coloured, with combinations of black, yellow, red and orange markings. Paper wasps are social insects belonging to the Vespidae family. When the wasp grabs the flower, the momentum flips him upside down and whacks him into the pollen. Meet Helfrich’s dartfish, a small marine fish with attitude to burn. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t mated with a female wasp – but with a flower. Wasps scavenging on human food and drinks . In January, she went with two amateur orchid enthusiasts to an Aboriginal site called Bulgandry in the Brisbane Water National Park near Gosford, north of Sydney. "Spider wasps have venom that could be useful for treating Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy, but most Australian spider wasp species are unknown to science." The larvae of the flies develop in dying organic material, which is why they’re attracted to foul smells. In Australia, about 1400 of them thrive in wet habitats around the margins of the landmass, with the biggest diversity in the south-west and south-east. They are not aggressive wasps and will not attempt to sting if you approach them. Most Australian orchids that mimic female insects have their own specific pollinator: as a general rule, it’s one species of wasp to one species of orchid. They were barely visible to the naked eye. Dan confirmed the plumes were pollen, being carefully carried on the heads of eye gnats, which belong to a family known as chloropid flies. Its allure is overwhelming. Males have a broad orange band on the abdomens and dark brown legs. The particular orchid, the fringed midge orchid, was known to attract flies. When Dr Anne Gaskett of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who has studied the group extensively in NSW, Victoria, WA and New Zealand, analysed the orchids from this genus, she discovered ultraviolet spots that were invisible to the human eye, but which resemble the UV reflected from the wings of female wasps. leptochila is burgundy with a plush, velvety surface with glistening black spots and looks like a narrow, curled tongue.”. Several species of paper wasps are found in Australia, however only the yellow paper wasp, Polistes dominulus, and the common paper wasp, Polistes humilis, are widespread in south-west Western Australia (WA). “So when one does come up, the males descend upon her in this massive scramble of wrestling wasps… It’s just like that with the orchid.”. “There aren’t many females around at any one time,” says Dr Ryan Phillips, a research scientist at the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority in Perth, who studies sexual deception among West Australian orchids. Sand Wasps are solitary hunting wasps that nest in loose sand. If fish had beds, this one woke up on the wrong side of hers. “She realised that scent was working over a long distance… When I’ve had orchid specimens in the car, I’ve had wasps fly in through the window when I was parked at the lights.”. PLUS receive two gifts. 1Common paper wasp nest.jpg. A LONE WASP PICKS up on an exciting scent. They hunt for insects (some species hunt only certain species of flies) which they paralyse with their... Sirex Wasps are metallic blue with orange brown wings. Both are introduced species, not native to WA. Keep up to date with our stylish calendars and diaries. Females have pointed abdomens and orange brown legs. They are not aggressive wasps and will not attempt to sting if you approach them. Find the full story in #110 of Australian Geographic (Sep/Oct). But there are exceptions. “This highlights how little is known about the pollination of even some of our most common orchids,” he says. But five other males have picked up the same scent, and they push and shove each other, competing to mate. The male wasps – like this one above – are drawn to specific odours emitted by the orchids, which cleverly imitate the sex pheromones of receptive female wasps. One hammer orchid is unusual in that it shares a pollinator with a species of big, gaudy spider orchid. Sirex Wasp But in Australia, at least 250 species in some 10 genera have adopted the strategy, deceiving male insects – mostly wasps – into believing that they’ve found an elusive female. He has the target right where he wants it, and he ejaculates. THERE ARE 26,000 species worldwide in the orchid family. When a male lands on the flower, its shape ensures he grips it in the right position to make contact with the pollen. “This is also a great example of how photographers and other naturalists can provide valuable data to research scientists,” he says. To the wasps, the flowers would appear similar. Using her cameras to magnify this micro world, Esther recently made a new scientific discovery. Subscribe & Save About | Privacy Policy | Disclaimer | Contact Us. And while the overall shapes of the tongue orchids are different, up close, they all have the small “grips” or “love handles” which mimic the shape of the female wasp. Orchids have evolved to release chemical copies of the females wasp’s pheromones – and it can be irresistible. Sand Wasp (Bembix sp) Sand Wasps are solitary hunting wasps that nest in loose sand. Home | Mammals | More so than anywhere else in the world, our orchids are deceitful temptresses with a powerful perfume. Wasps scavenging on pet food. How to tell Native from Non-native Wasps. It has metallic blue/green head and thorax. This tiny wasp lays its eggs in the egg case (ootheca) of the Mantis. Some orchids make absolutely certain the wasp does the job. But as she watched them through her camera, she saw they were moving. Home Topics Science & Environment Deceptive orchids: luring wasps for pollination. The abdomen is brown. Image credit: Esther Beaton/Australian Geographic. Scientists discover buried lakes of salty water on the red planet, ‘Expect the unexpected’: Koala rescued after scaling NSW lighthouse, Endangered Australian frogs persist despite bushfire catastrophe, Australian Geographic Society Expeditions, Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition, Environmentalists, Conservationists and Scientists. Regular  AG contributor, photographer Esther Beaton, who has travelled with Ryan to orchid sites around the Margaret River region of WA and who has photographed Cryptostylis in the grounds of Macquarie University, Sydney, has long been fascinated by the pollinators. Hammer orchids, spider orchids, flying duck orchids and elbow orchids all use the same devious approach. True hornets prey on other insects including honeybees and social wasps and chew them into a paste as food for their larvae. Australia has about 35 species of native paper wasp ranging from 8-26 mm in length. It is one of the few Australian sexually deceptive orchid groups not pollinated by a thynnine wasp. The rear legs are strong and toothed and used to clasp onto the wings of a female mantis. But in Australia, at least 250 species in some 10 genera have adopted the strategy, deceiving male insects – mostly wasps – into believing that they’ve found an elusive female. Now found in every state and territory, the wasps are decimating our ecosystems. “It has a slight citronella tang overlaying an odour of…well…toilet.”. A Increase font size. “Each orchid is so complex and magical to look at,” she says. The female wasps are dumpy, flightless creatures that spend much of their adult lives underground, laying eggs on beetle larvae in the soil. “It also shows there are plenty of opportunities for discovery – not just by scientists but by interested amateur naturalists.”. Vespa and Vespula species do not occur naturally in Australia but the European Wasp, Vespula germanica, has become established in the eastern states and frequent incursions have been detected in Western Australia. They hunt for insects (some species hunt only certain species of flies) which they paralyse with their... Click to continue> FAMILY : Sirex Wasps.

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