Date: June 2008
Place: Chisinau, Moldova
The beautiful giant displayed on the photos is named the Giant Scolia (Scolia maculata). This is a 40 – 60 mm wasp with membership in the Scoliidae family from the order Hymenoptera. There are approximately 450 species in this family that live mostly in the tropical and subtropical climatic zones.
Scoliidae are usually large black insects with hairy body, several yellow or orange marks on abdomen, and distinctively corrugated wing tips. Male wasps are a bit more slender, elongate and have longer antennas than their girl-friends. Scolia maculata is the largest representative of the family.
Despite the relatively big size, Scolia is not harmful to large animals and humans. Its sting is thin and smooth – the master uses it not for killing or causing pain, but as an accurate surgical instrument for paralyzing its prey – the larva of the rhino beetle (Oryctes nasicornis). After detecting the presence of the larva the female wasp immediately clasps it and stings in the belly nervous centre that controls all movements of the organism. Thus the larva remains living, but becomes fully paralyzed – a perfect method for keeping it fresh during the whole period of the Scolia larva development. The female wasp lays one egg on the belly of the paralyzed victim, and the hatched larva devours it gradually, starting from the less important organs and finishing with the vital nervous and blood circulatory systems.
This way the Scoliid wasp larvae serve as the important biocontrol agents that maintain the population and distribution of pest beetles at moderate level.
Scolia maculata is considered to be endangered specie and is included in the Red Book of the Russian Federation and the Red Data List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).