Larra bicolor Fabricius is a South American wasp species that belongs to the family Crabronidae. Adults of Larra bicolor feed on nectar produced by a few species of plants. Larvae of Larra bicolor are ectoparasitoids of large nymphs and adults of Neoscapteriscus mole crickets. Three species of Neoscapteriscus mole crickets (tawny, southern, and shortwinged mole crickets), all of South American origin, have been pests in Florida for about 100 years.
Larra bicolor wasps were initially brought to Florida by UF/IFAS researchers and released in 1981. However, stock that was released was from the tropics. This stock established a small population at Davie in Broward County, but failed to spread, so did not do much good.
A later release by UF/IFAS researchers in 1988–1989 of a Bolivian stock of Larra bicolor wasps in Alachua County not only became established but has spread to neighboring counties and continues spreading. This stock seems to be more cold-tolerant and survives winters in northern Florida. Planting of the adult wasp’s preferred nectar source, a wildflower called Spermacoce verticillata, southern larraflower or false shrubby buttonweed, helps to maintain wasp populations and, because the wasps spend much time feeding on the nectar, makes them easier to observe.
Paper wasps build communal nests and defend these nests against people. To the people who are attacked, this seems like aggression, although it is really defense of the nest. However, Larra wasps do not do this because they are solitary (not communal) and do not build nests. Larra wasps do not attack people.
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