Black insect with thin yellow stripes and ?stinging and/or biting capabilities
Location: Palo Alto, CA
August 22, 2010 4:41 pm
Dear What’s That Bug,
I had a most unfortunate experience last night and this morning, and I was wondering if you could help me identify *what* it was. A few times during the night I awoke to a buzzing sound in my ear, though I couldn’t find the source. Shortly after I woke up, I felt a sharp pain on my wrist, then a bit later a few more on my back. These became 3 mm tall welts with a sunken poke mark in the middle.
Eventually, I found the source: a black insect with four thin yellow stripes on the last segment. It has something that looks like a short and thin stinger at the end and a pair of pinchers on the head (please excuse my terminology — I have some botanical training, but not entomological!). It also has narrow wings that it usually keeps folded on its body such that it’s hard to see them. Oh, but the insect does fly! There might even be a second, smaller pair of wings under the first, but it’s hard for me to see.
Could you please tell me what this is? I’ve seen these around before, but had never been assaulted by one!
Bitten and/or stung
Dear Bitten and/or stung,
We suspect you were probably stung, though we are not certain if the sting of a Leaf Cutting Bee in the genus Megachile brings certain death as it does in a Honey Bee worker. The jaws of a Leaf Cutting Bee are quite pronounced, and perhaps the bite may have caused the reaction you describe. According to BugGuide: “Most nest in pre-existent holes in wood. Female typically cuts neat, more-or-less round pieces out of leaves to serve as separators between cells of nest” and the young feed on a variety of pollens. Sadly, we fished a drowning Leaf Cutting Bee from our birdbath yesterday and it died. According to Charles Hogue in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin: “”Neatly cut semicircular notches in the leaf edges of one’s rose bushes indicate the presence of these solitary bees in the neighborhood.”