July 31, 2009
This bug was flying around the lights in front of my house in Richmond, Virginia on the night of July 29, 2009. I think it could be a wood hornet and I think the whip-like tail could be an ovipositor (thanks to the information your website provided!) but I am not sure. If this is an ovipositor, why is it so long? It seemed as though the bug had very little control of it as it flew around the lights and banged into the side of the house!
Coincidentally, a few minutes ago we posted an image of a male Megarhyssa atrata, and in that response, we described the female. Your photo is a female Giant Ichneumon, Megarhyssa atrata. She does have an ovipositor. Giant Ichneumons prey upon the larvae of Pigeon Horntails and other wood boring insects that infest dead and dying trees. The female uses her long ovipositor to deposit eggs deep inside infested wood, “drilling” until she locates the tunnel of a wood boring grub. That is where she lays the egg. We have several nice images of Giant Ichnuemons ovipositing on our website, including this one from June 2008. We have heard that Giant Ichneumons may be attracted to artificial lights at night.