Argogorytes mystaceus - a digger wasp

Scientific Name: Argogorytes mystaceus (Crabronidae).

English Name: a digger wasp.

French Name: 

5 Key Characters:
  • completely black antennae, males have unusually long antennae.
  • only 3 yellow bands on abdomen.
  • black scutellum, yellow spot on metanotum (third thoraxic segment).
  • lower parts of legs reddish yellow (especially the hind legs).
  • Tergite 1 (first abdominal segment) is more or less hemispherical and there is a noticeable 'step' between tergites 1 and 2.

Lookalikes: Many other Crabronites, especially other Gorytes and Argogorytes spp. A. mystaceus is the only one of these that has enough potentially visible characters to identify from a photograph. The Gorytes and Argogorytes spp can be separated from other Crabronites by wing venation (two veins terminate on the base of the second sub-marginal cell).

Habitat: Dry sunny woodland clearings and edges with tall vegetation. Preys on froghopper nymphs, especially Meadow Froghopper Philaenus spumarius. The froghopper nymphs are used to stock nest burrows dug in dry banks in damp woodland clearings. Female wasps visit Wood Spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides and umbellifer flowers and Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa leaves for the honeydew. An important pollinator of Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera. Males are attracted to the flowers which emit a pheromone like the female wasps. The males attempt to mate with the orchid flowers and receive the orchid pollinia stuck to their back, which they can then transfer to another flower.

Flight Period: April-May-June-July-August-September.

Status: Widespread and quite common. Parasitised by the Large-spurred Digger Wasp Nysson spinosus and probably by Miltogramine flesh flies.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

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