I saw something unusual when I was out on one of my hiking trips recently. Since the weather was very warm, I stopped to sit on a bench so I could take the time to relax and enjoy nature. I very rarely stop and relax like this, but it was a warm weather treat for me.
As I was looking around, I noticed something moving on the closest part of the sign in front of me. It was very small, and I knew immediately that it was an insect of some kind. That didn't seem unusual to me at first, but then I remembered what time of year it was. It was still winter.
I had always assumed that insects couldn't survive at these temperatures. It was very warm for winter, but cold for most other seasons. I'm guessing that with the unseasonably warm weather, some of these bugs woke up by mistake. I decided to get a closer look at this creature.
At first when I looked at it, I thought this insect was just a big ant. It looked to be about a quarter of an inch long. Ants are very common around here, and it was shaped the same general way as an ant. But when I looked a little closer, I noticed something strange.
The creature I thought was an ordinary ant, was much more red than any ants around here. This was becoming interesting! I then decided that I had to get a few pictures of this thing. After a few blurry mistakes, I got a few that were presentable. I could now do some research about it, and then show off my new discovery. That's where I ran into even more problems!
I thought I would be smart and tell everyone just what kind of ant this was, but I soon found out it wasn't an ant at all. For one thing, I noticed when I was looking at it that it had a huge stinger! I didn't know if it would sting, so I didn't touch it. I don't know of any ants here with a big stinger like that. I do know of insects with stingers, and I found out generally what this was.
This insect is a type of parasitic wasp of the genus Gelis. I couldn't get any more definite information than that, because nobody else knew any more than I do. I read about similar stories of seeing these in unusually cold weather for a bug. And the photos anyone else had looked exactly like the same creature.
These have been seen throughout Michigan, where I live. One person saw one of these wasps in January, the coldest part of winter. I'm sure somebody knows exactly what type of wasp this is, but the information I have is good enough for me right now. Of course, more is always welcome!
This has convinced me that I should always look at the small things when I'm out hiking. Stopping to rest and examining my surroundings very closely will help find hidden treasure like this. Hiking isn't about getting to a place as fast as you can; it's about enjoying nature. Sometimes just stopping to rest can reveal hidden surprises.