Currently viewing the category: "Wasps and Hornets"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Location: Kentucky
July 26, 2011 5:37 pm
I have some type of hydrangea that attacks all types of bees/wasps. I would like to know exactly what type of wasps I’m dealing with. I’m attaching three pictures to help you identify both wasps. Can you help? Thanks
Signature: Carla

Great Black Wasp and Great Golden Digger Wasp

Hi Carla,
You have two different species of Thread Waisted Wasps in the genus
Sphex pollinating your hydrangeas.  The black was is a Great Black Wasp or Katydid Hunter, Sphex pensylvanicus, and the lighter individual is a Great Golden Digger Wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus.  You may read about the Great Black Wasp on BugGuide, and you may also read about the Great Golden Digger Wasp on BugGuide.  The females of both species are solitary wasps that dig a nursery that is provisioned with Katydids to feed the young.  Neither species is considered aggressive.

Great Black Wasp and Great Golden Digger Wasp

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

terribel painful sting
Location: woodland hill, california
July 26, 2011 9:49 pm
everywhere this year – been here 15 years and never seen this bug
black body – does not fly – looks like a white clover flower –
terribly painful sting
Signature: cheers

Velvet Ant

Dear cheers,
We do not want to even attempt a species identification from such a blurry image, but we can tell that this is a Velvet Ant, and you are correct, they are reported to have an extremely painful sting.  Velvet Ants are flightless female wasps, and may have bright orange and red coloration with black markings.  Under no circumstances should Velvet Ants be handled with bare hands.  A sting is sure to follow.


Conditions were right.  Unseasonal rains may have contributed.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Flying Sap Eating bug?
Location: Long Island, NY
July 26, 2011 6:38 pm
This bug looks like some sort of dragon fly. If you look closely you will see 2 loops coming over the tail and then come together between the hind legs. This stick looking appendage? was then inserted into a round hole in the tree which looked like a hole made from a and or termite. The holes were as much as 2 inches deep. At the end of the tail where the 2 ”loops start looked like some sort of organ moving/pulsing. I think either the bug was eating the sap of this maple tree which was exposed by these holes or maybe laying eggs. What is it?
Signature: ?

Giant Ichenumon Ovipositing

Dear ?,
This is a Giant Ichneumon in the genus
Megarhyssa, probably Megarhyssa macrurus.  As trees age, portions of them begin to die and they become susceptible to disease and infestation.  One of the insects that targets old and weak trees is the Pigeon Horntail, a wood wasp whose larva bore in the wood.  Your creature, a Giant Ichneumon, is a parasite whose larvae feed on the larvae of the Pigeon Horntail.  This female Giant Ichneumon is ovipositing.  She will lay her eggs on or near the wood boring larva of the Pigeon Horntail, which she senses beneath the bark.  Giant Ichneumons will not harm your tree, but you should know that your tree has already been compromised and is in a state of decline, however, it may still live for many years.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Flaming red velvet ant
Location: western North Carolina
July 24, 2011 7:48 pm
Hi Bugman,
Our family are huge fans of your site and use it often to find out about all sorts of insects.
This one had us truly stumped. We had never seen anything like it in western North Carolina. She (as we found out here) obviously looked very dangerous so we were careful not to touch when we scooted her gently into the jar to photograph her.
Wow am I glad we did! I logged in here ready to ask ”What’s that bug?” And found the article on the top five and discovered this velvet ant aka cowkiller. Now we don’t know what to do with it.
We have 3 small children and, of course, their safety is all we really care about. How do we handle getting rid of her carefully?
Signature: Emily – concerned mom


Hi Emily,
We are thrilled to read that you heeded the warning sign of aposomatic coloration and that you were able to quickly self identify this magnificent
Dasymutilla occidentalis, commonly called a Cow Killer, using our website.  In our opinion, you should release her, but how far from the home might be a dilemma for you.  Though your children are young, we hope that they were included in the research process and that you instructed them that they might get stung if they try to pick up a Velvet Ant of any species.  The habitat of the Cow Killer, according to BugGuide, includes “Meadows, old fields, edges of forests” so you might consider releasing her in some open space nearby that would suit her needs.  The life cycle of the Cow Killer is quite interesting.  According to BugGuide, the female Cow Killer:  “Invades the nest of bumble bees, especially Bombus fraternus. Female searches for bumble bee nests, digs down and deposits one egg near brood chamber. Larva of the Dasymutilla enters the bumble bee brood chamber, kills those larvae, and feeds on them. Larva pupates in the bumble bee brood chamber.“  We have always been intrigued by the origin of the name Cow Killer, and back in 2010, a comment from 22AGS was posted to our site that provided this anecdote:  “In south Georgia in the early ’60s, farmers used to tell me that this wasp got its name by getting into the cloven hoofs of cows and stinging them there. The cow would then run madly off and sometimes be injured or fall, breaking it’s leg. Thus the name, as the lame cow would then have to be put down.“  That posting later inspired this comic that was created by one of our readers.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Whats this bug?
Location: Gaines, Michigan
July 24, 2011 11:01 am
These wasp looking bugs cloud around our yard, they never seem to land they just fly in circles. We caught one and it is less than an inch long, and it has weird antennas. They just appeared this month, please help!
Signature: Alan Rodgers

Five Banded Tiphiid Wasp

Hi Alan,
This is a male Five Banded Tiphiid Wasp,
Myzinum quinquecinctum.  According to BugGuide:  “A slender, shining black wasp, with yellow crossbands. Males are more slender than the females and have an upturned black hook at the end of the abdomen. There are 5 yellow bands on the abdomen of the female (the second is broken in the middle) and 6 narrow, more regular ones in the male. Both head and thorax are marked with yellow. Legs of the males are strongly yellow, but they are reddish in females. Wings are brown.“  This is not an aggressive species, and males form “Bachelor Parties” like this one we posted in 2007.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hornet Queen?
Location: Central Idaho near Boise.
July 22, 2011 1:47 pm
I was recently driving on a stretch of highway between Boise ID and small town to the East of Boise and was startled by a loud thump and then a giant hornet looking but that bounced onto the spedometer console. I pulled over and moved the unfortunate insect into my water bottle. My main reason for this is that I have seen these insects around but have not been able to take a good enough picture to submit to your site for examination. I have done a bit of research on my own and I think this is a queen hornet since we have no shortage of yellow jacket hornets in this area. My experience with these creatures is that they are not aggressive. This is such a marvelous specimen its too bad it had to meet such an unfortunate end, but maybe it can serve to educate now. It is about 1.5 inches long and has a wingspan of well over 2 inches as you can see in the pictures. It is a beautiful orange and yellow color and has dark orange tinted wings. Could you shed some enlightenme nt on this bug for me please, my whole office is extremely curious.
Signature: Dave from Idaho

Western Cicada Killer

Hi Dave,
At first we were troubled by what we thought we were going to have to tag as Unnecessary Carnage, but upon reflecting upon the totality of your emailed message, we have decided that this killing was justified in the interest of knowlege, especially since your message acknowledges its “unfortunate end”.  We are a bit sensitive lately because we have seen so many photos of dead Eastern Cicada Killers, Great Golden Digger Wasps, and Katydid Hunters, and we believe this may be only the second photo we have ever received of the Western Cicada Killer,
Sphecius grandis, which we have identified using BugGuide. This magnificent predator surely deserves its species name grandis, and you can see some wonderful photos of living specimens on BugGuide.

I do appreciate your understanding.  The death of this beautiful creature was in no way on purpose.  It flew into the door frame of my car with my window open and caused its own unintended death before it landed on the speedometer console.  I am grateful that is has such a strong carapace so that I was able to retrieve it in whole and not in pieces.  Having lived in Idaho my whole life I and never encountering a cicada I did not know that it was possible to have cicada killers in this state, but further investigation reveals that we do indeed have cicadas in Idaho. Thank you so much for your prompt and informative response.  I will post your links on our internal website so that everyone can know what this was.

Hi Dave,
Oh, we actually misunderstood.  We thought you put the living Cicada Killer in the water bottle and it died after.  Your followup clarifies that it died upon impact.  Also, Eric Eaton has provided his insight into this creature’s identity.

Eric Eaton confirms genus, but not species
I can’t conclude whether this is Sphecius grandis or S. convallis from this image….it looks squarely between the two given the markings!  I’d need a magnified view of the first two abdominal segments, and even that might not be truly conclusive.

Upon inspection of the images you have on bugguide and my specimen, along with the information provided by Mr. Eaton, I believe this to be S. srandis [ed. note: grandis perhaps] and not S. convallis.   Although my pictures do not illustrate it well, this does have curved antennal segments, although the torso segments do make it hard to pick.  I’m no expert though, just a curious observer.

Yes, sorry about that J.  I have posted the link to the bug guide on our internal webpage so people can go look it up themselves.  I am very pleased to learn how many people in the agency have such a keen interest in insects.  I have only ran across 2 people that were not wholly intrigued by this specimen, and those 2 are deathly allergic to bees so it is kind of a phobia for them.

Hi again Dave,
So many people claim to be “deathly allergic” to bees.  It is our belief that it is probably an imagined allergy in many cases just because a bee sting is unpleasant.  A bee sting or a wasp sting generally swells, but nearly dying from a sting would seem to be more of a rarity than the norm.

Upon inspection of the images you have on bugguide and my specimen, along with the information provided by Mr. Eaton, I believe this to be S. srandis [ed. note:  grandis perhaps] and not S. convallis.   Although my pictures do not illustrate it well, this does have curved antennal segments, although the torso segments do make it hard to pick.  I’m no expert though, just a curious observer.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination