Date of Award

Fall 2017

Project Type


Program or Major

Biological Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Donald S. Chandler

Second Advisor

Sandra M. Rehan

Third Advisor

Carrie L. Hall


Cerceris fumipennis (Hymenoptera, Crabronidae) is a ground-dwelling wasp that provisions its nest with woodboring jewel beetles (Buprestidae), making it a useful tool in biosurveillance of forest pests. In particular, C. fumipennis aggregations have been used for monitoring the invasive Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis (Coleoptera, Buprestidae)) and by using this biosurveillance technique researchers have tracked the spread of this pest into new states and provinces. However, despite its success as a biosurveillance tool, information about much of the biology of Cerceris fumipennis is lacking. This study is focused on the biology and life history of C. fumipennis to better understand its use in long-term pest monitoring, in particular the nest provisioning and homing behaviors of this species are examined.

The nests of Cerceris fumipennis were observed through the summers of 2016 and 2017. Nest creation and abandonment was recorded and analyzed, plus nests were also excavated and the contents of each nest was examined to determine the maternal investment and prey constancy of each wasp. Maternal investment was divided into three categories: number of young, the number of beetles brought back to the nest, and the biomass of these beetles. Each of these three categories was determined for each cell and for each nest. Nests that had regular human interference and nests that had been left undisturbed throughout the summer had similar rates of maternal investment in each of the three categories. The constancy of prey species selection by each wasp was examined by looking at the species composition of the prey from each nest.

The homing range of the wasps was studied by releasing Cerceris fumipennis from three distances from their nests: 0.2 km, 0.4 km, and 1 km. The wasps returned from all three distances, with a significant difference in the average time that it took for wasps to return from 0.2 km and 1 km. This suggests that 1 km is well within the homing range of C. fumipennis. Determination of the homing range of the wasp is an initial step in determination of their hunting range, and produce information on their flight behavior.