Philanthini

Beewolf
Published 18 December 2023

The subject of the image above (from macroclub.ru) is Philanthus hellmanni, a species of the widespread apoid wasp genus Philanthus found in northeastern Asia. Records of this species exist from eastern Russia, Mongolia and northern China (Bohart & Menke 1976). Philanthus species are colourful wasps (historically included in the family Crabronidae but more recently treated within Philanthidae) whose generic name translates as “lover of flowers”. They may be recognised by the notched inner margins on the eyes, and hind wings with a large jugal lobe occupying over half of the anal area. Philanthus hellmanni is characterised by a yellow clypeus with the remainder of the face black, and black metasomal terga with yellowish bands (Dollfus 2017). The red basal segment on the metasoma of the individual in the photo identifies it as the subspecies P. hellmanni sibiricus (Radoszkowski 1888). However, I suspect the relationship between these forms warrants re-examination.

I have not found any specific discussion of the biology of P. hellmanni since it was first described in 1849, but the life history of several other Philanthus species is well known (Bohart & Menke 1976). Like many other apoid wasps, Philanthus species nest in holes in the ground which they provision with paralysed insects. The favoured prey of Philanthus species are bees, leading to members of the genus acquiring the vernacular name of “beewolf”. Nests typically branch into multiple cells with individual cells stocked with several bees. Beewolves do not appear to be choosy about exactly which bees they attack; nests of a single Philanthus species may contain a variety of bee species, and they may occasionally attack other wasps as well. In some species, females have also been found constructing one or more accessory burrows alongside their nest that they never provision or close up. These extra burrows may function as decoys, leading parasites to waste time investigating dead ends and missing the sealed genuine nest nearby.

References

Bohart, R. M., & A. S. Menke. 1976. Sphecid Wasps of the World. University of California Press: Berkeley.

Dollfuss, H. 2017. The Philanthinae wasps of the “Biologiezentrum Linz”-Collection in Linz, Austria including the genera Aphilanthops Patton, Clypeadon Patton, Odontosphex Arnold, Philanthinus de Beaumont, Philanthus Fabricius, Pseudoscolia Radoszkowski and Trachypus Klug (Hymenoptera, Apoidea, Crabronidae). Linzer biol. Beitr. 49 (1245–1274).

Radoszkowski, O. 1888. Etudes hyménoptèrologiques. Trudy Russkago Entomologicheskogo Obshestva [Horae Societatis Entomologicae Rossicae] 22: 315–337, pls 12–15.

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