Currently viewing the category: "Horntails, Wood Wasps and Sawflies"
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Subject: Thing is huge
Location: Anchorage AK
July 9, 2016 1:41 pm
I have never seen one of these before. It is pretty close to 2 inches long. Biggest wasp i have ever encountered
Signature: Cory brignone

Horntail

Wood Wasp

Dear Cory,
This is one of the Horntails or Wood Wasps in the family Siricidae.  They have larvae that are wood borers.  Your particular Wood Wasp is Urocerus flavicornis, a species that uses conifers as the host.  According to BugGuide its range is:  “all forested regions of Canada and the US.”

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Caterpillars
Location: Anvik, Alaska
June 24, 2016 3:32 am
Hello im from Alaska and we just noticed all these caterpillars everything eating up all the leaves off of willows and trees.. It’s very on common for these to be around here. There trillions of them everything I mean every where. Please let us know if u know what they are. This spring there were millions of Moths flying around that was very weird and wasn’t common at all.
Signature: Kelly Kruger

Sawfly Larvae or Caterpillars???

Sawfly Larvae or Caterpillars???

Dear Kelly,
Alas, there is not enough detail in your images to tell for certain if these are Caterpillars, or as we suspect, Sawfly Larvae.  According to Insects.About.com:  “Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths, which belong to the order Lepidoptera. Sawfly larvae look similar to caterpillars, but are an entirely different kind of insect. Sawflies are related to bees and wasps, and belong to the order Hymenoptera. Like caterpillars, sawfly larvae usually feed on plant foliage.  How can you tell the difference between a sawfly larva and a caterpillar? Count the prolegs. Caterpillars may have up to five pairs of abdominal prolegs (see parts of a caterpillar diagram), but never have more than five pairs.  Sawfly larvae will have six or more pairs of abdominal prolegs*. Another notable difference, though it requires a closer look, is that caterpillars have tiny hooks called crochets, on the ends of their prolegs. Sawflies don’t.  Another, less obvious difference between caterpillars and sawfly larvae is the number of eyes.  Caterpillars almost always have 12 stemmata, 6 on each side of the head. Sawfly larvae usually have just a single pair of stemmata.”  In two of your images, the camera is entirely too far away to see individual detail in these larvae.  In the one close-up image, the largest larva is partially out of focus, and the only other larva that can be viewed clearly is half cut off at the top of the frame.  We wish we could count the prolegs, though it really seems to us that there appears to be six pairs, which would make these Sawfly Larvae and not Caterpillars, but again, the image is too blurry at that critical part of the anatomy that we cannot be certain.  Additionally, we can find no images online of either Caterpillars or Sawfly Larvae that have this particular coloration and markings.  The jury is still out on your identification request.  Can you return to the willows and get a higher resolution, sharper image? or can you count the prolegs and get back to us?

Sawfly Larvae or Caterpillars???

Sawfly Larvae or Caterpillars???

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: unknown insect
Location: Bay Area, California
June 14, 2016 2:45 pm
Hello,
Love this site and use it often! I got this photo from a co-worker and couldn’t identify it with my books or your posts. It was found on a backpack in early June. Is it some kind of horntail larvae?
I think you are out in the field, I look forward to your answer when you return. Thanks for your time!
Signature: Jess
Resource Analyst  | Stewardship
East Bay Regional Park District
Oakland, CA

Unknown Larva

Probably Longtailed Sawfly Larva

Dear Jess,
Thanks for your patience, though we received so much mail while we were away that we will never be able to respond to everything.  This looks nothing like the drawing of a Horntail larva pictured on Bug Eric.  It appears to have an ovipositor, and we are not aware of any larvae that possess an ovipositor.  Like you, we are stumped.  We will write to Eric Eaton to see if he can provide an identification.  For now, we will classify it as a Beetle Grub, but we are not convinced that this the appropriate classification.

Eric Eaton responds
Reminds me of a rat-tailed maggot, except those don’t have legs, which this one clearly does, plus a head capsule….I’m stumped, too.
Eric

Update:  As we await additional information from Jess, we are featuring this posting and requesting assistance from our readership.
Dear Jess, please provide us with any additional information, like size.  Also, was this discovery made on a backpack in the field, or was it shortly after an excursion?

Hello Daniel,
Thanks so much for your time on this! My co-worker is off at a conference, and didn’t provide a size. However, using his photograph of the backpack(see the blurry strap?);  it looks to be about 2.5-3 stitches long. I measured the reinforced stitches on my backpack and got approx. 8-10mm. When I first saw it and said it looked like a cricket larva, he said it was “a small cricket-size”. After review of cricket larva (no ovipositor) and rat-tailed maggots, I emailed. Maybe a female after a molt? But no wings….
He was out in the field, likely a grassland in one of our parks: Alameda or Contra Costa Counties of the East Bay.
Thanks to Eric for his time too.
I hope this helps,
Jess

Thanks for the information Jess,
Now that this request is back in our consciousness, we had a thought.  It reminds us of a Sawfly Larva, especially some Australian Sawflies, and sure enough, we found a Longtailed Sawfly in our archives that looks nearly exactly like your image.  Here is another image from the Australian Museum.  Now our mission is to see if any North American Sawflies have the long tail or if this might perhaps be an Australian introduction, a direction in which we are leaning as there are so many eucalyptus trees and other Australian fauna already naturalized in Southern California.  Now, going back to your original request, you suggested a Horntail Larva, and interestingly, Horntails and Sawflies are classified together as Symphyta which you may verify on BugGuide.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: What is this insect?
Location: North Alabama
May 29, 2016 6:52 pm
Can you identify this red wasp looking insect?
Signature: Brad Hawkins

Pigeon Horntail

Pigeon Horntail

Dear Brad,
This is a harmless species of Wood Wasp known as a Pigeon Horntail.  The female uses her ovipositor to lay her eggs beneath the bark of deciduous trees.  According to BugGuide:  “hosts include beech, elm, hickory, maple, oak, poplar, apple, pear, sycamore, and hackberry” and “Females lay eggs in diseased, decaying or cut wood.”  We are postdating your submission to go live to our site in mid-June during our annual trip away from the office.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Asian Hornet?
Location: Salt Lake City Utah
May 27, 2016 6:54 pm
Hi! I saw this on my globe willow last summer. No one knew what it was. Even the Terminix guy didn’t know.
Signature: Lee

Pigeon Horntail

Pigeon Horntail

Dear Lee,
This is not an Oriental Hornet, which to the best of our knowledge has not been introduced to North America, nor is it a European Hornet which has been introduced to North America but is only reported as far west as Texas on BugGuide.  This is a native, non-stinging Wood Wasp known as a Pigeon Horntail.  Your individual is an ovipositing female who is laying her eggs beneath the bark of your willow tree, indicating there are possibly health issues with the tree.  We will be postdating your submission to go live in June while our editorial staff is away from the office.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Midas like bug
Location: NW Washington state
May 17, 2016 8:45 pm
Hi, We have an odd bug we’ve never seen. It was seen today 30 miles south of Canada/ US border in Western Washington.
It’s about 1 and 1/4 inches long.
Primarily black with striped legs and long cream antenna.
It was attracted to a newly washed black car.
Signature: Claudia

Wood Wasp

Wood Wasp

Dear Claudia,
This is a female Wood Wasp,
Urocerus albicornis, a species that does not sting.  According to BugGuide:  “hosts include fir, larch, spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red cedar.”

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination