If you’re the parent of a ballplayer or kiddos who like to operate the diggers at one of our playgrounds, perhaps you’ve come across the Sand Wasp (Bembix) – one of more than 1,200 sand wasp species in North America.
Not to worry.
They’re all buzz, no sting.
With a gestation period of about six weeks, sand wasps swoop in to say hello about this time every summer when the females dig nests (or holes) in sandy ground devoid of vegetation to lay eggs and fill the holes with food for developing young.
Recently, we’ve received inquiries from residents in regard to these yellow and black or white and black-banded (beelike) pattern insects that burrow in the sand and clay, measuring up to two inches. Baseball and softball infields and other dry, sandy areas provide the perfect habitat for the sand wasp and other burrowing bees.
Based in Woodridge, V3 Companies is a natural areas provider, one of two consultants to the Fox Valley Park District that provides maintenance and ecological consultation for all our natural areas.
“I call them in when a situation has anything to do with pollination or natural areas,” said John Kramer, the FVPD’s director of operations. “This is not something new. In any places that have large areas of sand, this is a byproduct of that.”
If you see these insects, which hover around 18 inches off the ground when not burrowed, think friend not foe. Sand wasps prey on house flies, deer flies, and mosquitoes. A single, developing sand wasp larva may eat two dozen flies. Adults also feed on flower nectar, pollinating plants in the process.
“These wasps are unaggressive, solitary insects, and among the many wasp species that almost never sting humans,” said Keith Jones, project manager and senior ecologist at V3, who recently inspected Hoscheit Park on Aurora’s far east side. “Wasp and bee stings are modified egg-laying devices, so males are not equipped to sting. Females can sting if crushed, say by stepping on them with bare feet.”
Kramer noted that the sand wasps and other burrowers began, well, surfacing in mid-to-late June. Given the six-week gestation period, Kramer said, “the situation is soon to be a fleeting memory.”
Indeed. Almost time for them to buzz off.