by Angela Capinera
What else to do with yourself when you are inbetween errands and clients and are desperately drinking a large coffee because you didn’t sleep the night before? Stop at the Shakespeare Grounds on Elm Street on an impulse and see what wildlife can be found.
I stopped there one Monday morning this past August (2020) and did just that. I’d recently learned about the Seek app through a UConn program I was participating in and was stopping places just to see what I could find using the app.
How many times do we walk by something and think, uh, another flower? Uh, another bunch of leaves, uh, another weed, uh, another brown stalk of something I-don’t-know-the-name-for? We are blessed with some pretty interesting species here in Stratford both migrating through and year round. One of the year rounders is the Four-toothed Mason Wasp and I saw my first live one that Monday morning. Now, when I tell you where, please don’t go and kill everything in sight. All creatures have a right to their home and safety as much as we do, especially when they are outside and there is plenty of room for them and us humans.
The Four-toothed Mason Wasp, or Monobia Quadridens, was along the driveway in the back. For those who like to dissect what they are reading, Monobia means Mason or Potter Wasp and Quad is “four” and riden is “having teeth”. They sure do.
I spotted it not because of the black body and ivory colored band across its body, yet due to the rather dead green caterpillar dangling from its mouth. Had it not been for the dead caterpillar, I would have blinked and moved on to seeing what plants are among the hefty vegetation. Monobia Quadridens was among the vegetation near the back entrance. I spent quite a few minutes watching it. It moved out of the vegetation, across the cement, and into another patch of vegetation. I followed it and watched it drag the dead caterpillar up a broken stalk of marsh grass and then back down the same stalk and then under a patch of dead vegetation and disappear. I wasn’t going to poke around and try to find it.
Pictures always distort and can make things bigger or smaller. Yet Monobia Quadridens is actually only about ¾ of an inch, an inch, and to watch that tiny insect scurry down, across, and up in heat and humidity while carrying its dead prey was fascinating and amazing. The heat radiating off of the cement didn’t seem to perturb it in any way. Later, when I dug around more, I learned they are a tropical species that can be found from the United States all the way down to Argentina. Caterpillars and pollen consist of their main subsistence and yes, like all wasps, they do sting. Interestingly enough, only the females have venom where the males simply sting.
The picture I caught on my phone looks like a creature out of a science fiction movie leering among the leaves. There are two ivory colored dots that give the appearance of eyes yet are two bands on its thorax on either side of its head.
Wonders of nature never cease. It’s really cool to be looking back at the picture I took as winter begins and I’m grateful that little bit of nature popped out when it did.