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Digger wasps

Digger WaspThese wasps have been flying low over the garden for a couple of weeks now, but I only got a closer look on Sunday morning.  Five had settled down on a young apple tree, and the cool, dewy morning kept them in place even when I stuck the camera in their faces.

I'd assumed the insects were adult squash vine borers, but I wasn't even in the right ballpark; instead of being garden pests, these wasps are our new best friends.  Digger Wasps (Scolia dubia) are the primary natural enemy of both Japanese Beetles and June Bugs.  The female wasps burrow into the soil in search of beetle grubs, paralyze the immature beetles with their stingers, then lay an egg on each paralyzed grub.  The grub serves as a comatose but living buffet for the baby wasp, who eats the grub beyond repair.  Now I just need to figure out how to further encourage our Digger Wasp population and knock out the Japanese Beetles once and for all!

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