Wednesday, August 26, 2009

m. bikerbarus

There is always one neighborhood, one street, one local dive that parents warn their children to stay away from. These places attract the rough, the dangerous.

Apparently gardens also have such a place, such a plant. And that plant is Monarda punctata. Or, as I like to call it, m. bikerbarus.

As I previously posted, I visit every plant at least once a day during Japanese beetle season, hence ALL the time. ;-D And there is one patch out there that I always give a wide berth and that is the punctata. (No prob - even the JB's don't go there!) From the get-go this plant has attracted all the bad boys, the wild seed. And these guys are not just intimidating in size and attitude, but they are all packing heat - brandishing stingers everywhere.

In the previous post you saw the huge carpenter bees that frequent that nectar bar. Those guys don't scare me because I know they are really very docile. Still... when you get a nice guy in with the wrong crowd, things can go south if a rumble fires up.

Here's the Great Black Wasp that showed up early in the season. Obviously the Darth Vader of the wasp world.

From WikiAnswers:
A Great Black Wasp, sphex pennsylvanica, also known as Katydid Killer, is a large solitary non-aggressive black wasp of up to 1 1/2 inches in length. One of the solitary digger wasps, it feeds on nectar, sap, and other insects.

It digs a burrow, one egg per chamber, into each of which it places a large insect such as a cicada or katydid which provides food for the hatched young.

With a little more swash and buckle here is the Great Golden Digger Wasp wearing it's gang colors.

From Melody in KY:
Common throughout north America, digger wasps lay their eggs in burrows that they construct.

They look fierce, but rarely sting, and are quite curious about people and pets.

The adults eat nectar from various flowers and the larvae feed upon insects captured by the parent and stored in the burrow for their nourishment.
Often seen flying low across the lawns searching for suitable insects for the burrow. They spend the daylight hours searching and taking nectar, flying to roost in the evenings. Considered a beneficial insect because of the type of insects it preys on.

These 2 are the most impressive as to size. But, as with any gang, there are the hangers-on, those that have to strut their stuff, too. I've seen at least 7 other varieties of wasps (from bright little blue ones to the ubiquitous paper wasp) along with white faced hornets and yellow jackets.

And their foragings is best described as -
FRENZY. They dart, flit, dive, swoop, and crawl all over the blossoms and each other. It's just downright scary.

Yet these guys don't visit ANY other plants. I've never seen them anywhere else in the gardens. How truly bizarre.

Another note: Earlier in the month I posted about all the eggs the monarchs were laying on the milkweed plants. Those eggs have disappeared, yet no caterpillars can be found. Nothing is chewing on the milkweed leaves. I'm afraid the hornets and yellow jackets and wasps may have eaten them all. *sigh*

Bottom line, while I enjoy attracting insects to my garden, I may have to think long and hard this winter if I will grow more bikerbarus (uh, punctata) next year... We'll see.


  1. I bet it reseeds like crazy too. Looks a lot like the lemon mint bee balm I'm growing. I get wasps there too. I try to stay away from it if I can. ;)

  2. The m. punctata doesn't even attract BEEs, just these ornery things. And even the m. citriodora attracts yellow jackets and another little kind of hornet. I'm pretty sure now I won't grow either of them next year. I'm trying to run a nice place... LOL I'm actually considering going out one night and pulling up all this monarda.

  3. For what you have written..., I guess you may have another go at bikerbarus...

  4. B & K - you are probably correct. I really like the wasps, but I would have to find a place for the punctata (bikerbarus) somewhere far away from the milkweed. That way maybe the wasps wouldn't find all the Monarch eggs and eat them.

  5. I enjoyed your humor in this post. Those look like the wasps on my mountain mint. I've noticed them the last 2 or 3 years. I wondered if they scared the butterflies off, but didn't know they may eat the eggs or caterpillars. That's disappointing. I have noticed that I can get pretty close taking photos and they don't seem to mind.


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