What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

What is it? Wood Wasp/Horntail?
August 17, 2009
We live in Western Washington State, and we were just remodeling our new house that we bought which is located in a very wooded area. We had all the doors and windows open while working. Two of these insects flew in and my husband said they were very aggressive. He said they were going after him trying to attack. I’ve been trying to research what kind of insect it is, but can’t find an exact match. It looks a little like the pictures I’ve seen of wood wasps or horntails, but I’m not sure. It was about 2 in long! Do you have a better idea of what this is?
Covington, Washington

Wood Wasp: Urocerus californicus

Wood Wasp: Urocerus californicus

Hi Laura,
We are exerting a bit of creative license and calling your native insect, Urocerus californicus, by the common name California Wood Wasp,  There is only minimal information posted on the information page for this species on BugGuide, but Eric Eaton has the following information on an individual posting on BugGuide:  “It is indeed a female U. californicus (orange wings, all-black abdomen). I’m envious. In all my years in Oregon I never once saw one of these alive. They must be like buprestids: emerge briefly in large numbers such that if you aren’t in the neighborhood that day, you would never know they existed:-)
Wood Wasps cannot sting, and what appears to be a stinger is the female’s ovipositor.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

8 Responses to California Wood Wasp

  1. Cathy says:

    I have found something very similar. It has yellow legs and antenas. The body have two yellow strips very close together -close to the the stinger. It has the amber wings and stinger plus the long stinger type thing that extends past the stinger. If you find out what this is – please let me know. We live in Chilliwack BC – just north of the Washington border.

  2. CamnChris says:

    Hi there! Just caught this gi-normous black-bodied, yellow legged/antennaed, amber-winged monster flying around very aggressively. We live in South Central Oregon at 5700 ft in coniferous/aspen woodlands. Couldn’t tell for sure what it was using the Audubon field guide but got close enough to see it was a wood wasp. Then discovered this web site! Fantastic! Thank you!!

  3. Mike says:

    Nice to know these dang things can’t sting. First time I saw one was when I was a kid of about 9. Scared the heck out of me then, having that big thing buzz around like it wanted to take off an ear or something. Well, seen one today, and as a grown man of 55, I got the same feeling all over again. I didn’t know until now what they were, exactly. Thank you for enlightening me… Can they bite???

    • bugman says:

      Since the mandibles are capable of chewing through wood, we imagine they would also be able to nip at a human if given an opportunity.

  4. john says:

    Two days ago my cat was trying to eat a bug ( which i now know to be the California wood wasp), when i saw what it was I stopped him and put it in a container. Why? because i have never seen a bug like this before. i thought for sure that it was an form of hornet, but with a “stinger” on the top of the tail, i was like WOW that looks dangerous.
    i can send you a picture, if you e-mail me back. i live in Hamilton Ontario Canada. about 45 minutes from Buffalo

  5. john says:

    OOPS, my 9 year old son just corrected me, It was in fact a Pigeon Horntail.

  6. Bryan says:

    I saw one for the first time in Monterey county yesterday up in the hills.Had to Google search just what that thing was. Thanks

  7. Susan Hall says:

    I just saw one here this evening!! Scary looking buggers!
    I saw one last year about this time as well. I’m in Royal Oaks, CA

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