For the first time, the mammoth wasp, the largest wasp in Europe, was observed in Belgium in two different areas, reported Natuurpunt. The species is usually found in the south, with the most northern observation so far being in Czechia.
The wasp is most recognisable by its large — 4 centimetres — size and black body with four yellow spots. Females are usually slightly larger with a yellow head. According to Natuurpunt, the wasp is harmless to humans.
The nature institute said they expect more of these wasps to be observed in Belgium due to the recent warm temperatures. The best place to observe the species may be in the dunes because it is slightly warmer there than the rest of the country and one of its prey, the July beetle, lives there.
Making wasp history
A first sighting was reported on 26 June via observations.be, when a dead specimen was found in Bellegem in West Flanders. Wasp specialists Fons Verheyde and Augustijn De Ketelaere identified the species and determined that this was the first sighting of the species and family in Belgium. The person had not been to southern Europe recently, yet it's difficult to ensure it didn't come from France or another country around the Mediterranean via travel or imported goods.
A few days later, beetle expert Arno Thomaes found a second specimen in the centre of Sint-Niklaas in East Flanders. He found the wasp on his artichoke plant and though it flew away as soon as Thomaes approached it he was able to capture a photo upon its return.
Thomaes is a researcher at the Institute for Nature and Forest Research where he studies rare and protected beetles such as stag beetles. He had wanted to see this parasitic wasp in southern Europe for several years and now found the first living specimen in Belgium.
It is yet to be determined if the species will settle in Belgium permanently. Though it can fly long distances, it may not survive Belgian winters. Therefore, it may take several more years to see a permanent population of giant dagger wasps in Belgium.