What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

What is this bug that captures grasshoppers?
Location:  Eastern Ontario Canada
July 20, 2010 8:18 pm
We live in eastern Ontario between Ottawa and Montreal Canada. Last year we started to see these large ’flys’ swarming around our pool shed and down under some loose brick near the pool. There was just a few of them but what was interesting is that they captured and carried grasshoppers back under the brick where they obviously have a nest. This year there were many more of them so I got some sticky paper that’s meant to capture bugs and even mice (very sticky) and have caught nearly all of them along with a bunch of grasshoppers. There’s still a few of them left. They do not bother humans or try to bite but are rather annoying when a bunch are buzzing around. Its difficult to spray insecticide as its outside but I’m wondering how to get rid of them permanently. I’ve been at this location for 30 years but last year was the first time I’ve ever seen these bugs.
Evan McIntosh
I’ve attached a picture
Evan McIntosh

Great Black Wasp Carnage

Dear Evan,
This is a Great Black Wasp,
Sphex pensylvanicus, and as your letter indicates, it is not an aggressive species.  We do not give extermination advice, however, it has always been our mission to educate the public with regards to insects, spiders and other creatures that might appear to be frightening, but are actually quite benign or even beneficial.  The Great Black Wasp is one of those insects.  We cannot condone a justification of eradication just because a species is “somewhat annoying” especially since you indicate that they “do not bother humans or try to bite.”  We will be filing your letter and photograph under Unnecessary Carnage in an effort to educate.  According to BugGuide, the female Great Black Wasps:  “Provision nests (in burrow in soft earth) with Katydids or grasshoppters [sic]. (Univ. Florida lists: Tettigoniidae in genera Microcentrum and Scudderia.) Usually about three are placed in a nest.”  There is a nice image on Wikipedia of a Great Black Wasp dragging a Katydid to its burrow.  We would encourage you to be more tolerant of Great Black Wasps in the future.

A Reader Chastises Us for Failing to Educate
Failing to educate
July 17, 2011 6:26 am
I was just reading your response to Evan McIntosh regarding eradication of great black wasps. You wrote, “…it has always been our mission to educate the public with regards to insects, spiders and other creatures that might appear to be frightening, but are actually quite benign or even beneficial.  The Great Black Wasp is one of those insects.” You were quick to judge Evan by classifying his post under “Unnecessary Carnage” and claim to have education as your primary mission, yet do not provide one useful piece of info in your response. Did you think to describe WHY the great black wasp is beneficial? Next time, try educating first, and judging second. For me, I’m exterminating these wasps because my 3 yr old is afraid to leave the front door, where they “patrol” constantly, and my wife doesn’t like them getting into our home through the basement. I’d rather study bees and wasps with him on my terms, not theirs. I’d be happy to send a nice photo if you want more for your “Unnecessary Carnage” file.
Signature: Paul Bradley

Educational Entry:
The Great Black Wasp,
Sphex pensylvanicus, is a Thread Waisted Wasp that is also known as the Katydid Hunter according to BugGuide.

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Canada

44 Responses to Great Black Wasps exterminated because they were "rather annoying"

  1. Karin Ponce says:

    It’s interesting to watch a cicada wasp which carries cicadas to its hole for the babies.

  2. John Psuedonym says:

    I live in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. I’d seen these things before, but it had been so long ago that I was beginning to wonder if I’d imagined it. Well, yesterday, one flew into (and fortunately, back out of) my garage, and today, I’ve noticed two more (hence the web search that led me to your site). If they get out of hand, or if they make life unbearable for the six year old, I’ll take aggressive countermeasures, but knowing they are not aggressive, I’ll try to coexist via avoidance for as long as I can. No promises.

    The main reason I’m posting is to paradoxically a) share in a critique against you, and b) applaud you as well. A) I agree entirely with Paul Bradley’s “failure to educate” critique and don’t need to restate what he said so well. On the other hand, B) I applaud you for being so willing to post and highlight such an unflattering post. If your intent was to mock his critique by posting it, then it is not apparent. Instead, it comes off as owning up to the offense. And if that is indeed the motive, then again I would applaud you. It earns back a lot of the respect I would’ve otherwise lost for this site.

    Thanks for the info on the Great Black Wasp. Thanks to this page, I have learned that my greatest fears about these glistening onyx monsters are unfounded.



  3. Jim says:

    In recent years my home has been host to these beautiful yet intimidating creatures. In the past they have been in small numbers, but I didn’t bother to pay them much attention since they seemed relatively harmless. That was until this year; two new nests popped up near my back porch. One nest under my eves, and one directly under my back door. I nearly stepped on a wasp exiting the house one day. They seem to be getting more comfortable, and brave in their nesting habits. One even made it into our basement somehow (possibly through the dryer vent) and scared the crap out of me by flying inches from my face.
    Like I said, I have no problem with them unless they invade my home and become a nuisance. They seem to be immune to Spectracide (Wasp & Hornet killer) and wasp traps do not interest them. I sealed up the cracks in the steel siding where they were getting in, but now they just seem pissed. The parent Wasps don’t appear to inhabit the nests in my house, however they do return daily with fresh Katydids for their larva. Now that the cracks are sealed they continue to return and I fear they will continue to make new nests in and around my house. I have a problem and I don’t want to call en exterminator. I can appreciate the beauty of these Wasps, but I’d rather appreciate them from a safe distance.

  4. Brian Pillster says:

    I have recently been seeing alot of these wasps around Kitchener Ontario. I’ve live here for forty years and never seen them before. Two days ago my co-workers, daughter was attacked and stung by 20 of them. She sat on a park bench and there was a nest hidden underneath. They may be benign but they are still Territorial predators. (the girl was fine, but badly frightened.) Brian

    • bugman says:

      Hi Brian,
      We believe you are mistaken as to the attacking insect’s identity. The Great Black Wasp is a solitary wasp that provisions its burrow with Katydids. It does not build a nest that is defended. Many wasps will sting if carelessly handled, but the Great Black Wasp does not sting to guard a nest. That is a method used by social wasps. Our money is on a species of Polistes or other social wasp, not the Great Black Wasp.

  5. Andrea says:

    Hey geniuses who think that your backyard is some kind of bio-dome where nature stops existing: stop killing bees! Maybe the educator failed to mention WHY the Great Black Wasp is beneficial because ALL insects are beneficial! Just because you don’t see their benefit in your small little world, every creature has a great benefit and is extremely important in terms of the ecosystem. Maybe you should seal your basement properly so they can’t get in, instead of UNNECESSARILY killing them off. And killing them because they are “buzzing around and being annoying” is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Anyone with such a flagrant disregard for life should be ashamed of themselves. It is nothing short of “unnecessary carnage”. Try appreciating the natural world around you instead of thoughtlessly killing it off.

    • bugman says:

      Dear Andrea,
      Thank you for your comment. Some people will never learn to appreciate the wonders of the natural world. Some people will never change their belief that it is the role of humans to dominate the planet and beyond. Some people don’t realize the damage that can be done through the elimination of a single species. We share this world and we need to always keep that in mind. We often mention the interconnectivity of all things in the web of life, and we try to educate, but we often fail.

      • Zach says:

        I’m in high school, and we just learned about food webs and te flow of energy in an ecosystem for the seven billionth time, and the killing of the wasps and bees can harm much more than those insects. Gardens would die out due to underpollenation, and spiders and other animals who eat te bugs would die out as well, every plant and animal plays a huge role in everyday life.

    • buglover says:

      Hooray for Andrea’s comment and bugman’s! Right on! Those of you talking about getting attacked get your facts straight. This species is not aggressive and is solitary.

    • Tammy Garman says:

      Andrea, do you have small children? I have a 5 yr old granddaughter that is allergic to bee/wasp stings. I DON’T want to find out the hard way what it feels like to be stung by these black beauties. They have parked their nest between the slabs of cement right up by our garage wall between the two doors. This is where we wash and clean our vehicles. Now, I do NOT want to find out the hard way that they don’t like getting wet. So, instead of “yelling and getting nasty why don’t you suggest how to get them to move on AND give u a a concrete link that will prove that these wasps won’t sting us. Can you do that? Can the operators of this site do that because I’ve seen what we shouldn’t do but not what we can do. When these wasps are out flying around I walk ALL THE WAY AROUND MY HOUSE to get to the other door. NOT okay… Here is a link that DOES explain things WAY better:

      • bugman says:

        The editorial staff of What’s That Bug? has never claimed Great Black Wasps will not sting, but we still maintain they are not an aggressive species. If you try to catch a Great Black Wasp with bare hands, you will most likely get stung. If you are a predator and you try to eat a Great Black Wasp, you will most likely get stung. If your granddaughter has a habit of catching insects with her bare hands or trying to eat them, she will most likely get stung. If she is taught to respect nature from a distance and not to threaten a creature, she will most likely not get stung. Our favorite piece of amusing advice in the site you linked to, after claiming that our site does not provide information you desire, is where it states: “For starters, you can limit their food source. If you want to keep flowers, think about maintaining indoor plants instead of having a garden outside. Black wasps like blooming flowers and feed off of nectar, so keeping such plants in your yard is like extending an open invitation.” We imagine folks with Spheksophobia (See Fear Of) everywhere ripping out all their plants to limit the number of wasps in their yards. Similar advice might be given to folks regarding protecting their homes from termites by telling them to only use concrete and steel while building. The fact of the matter is that we share this planet with hundreds of thousands of other species, and learning about them and respecting them is a critical component to the survival of the entire planet. Furthermore, we do note on our site that “What’s That Bug? does not endorse extermination.” We are an identification site and we do our best to properly identify, for free, as many requests as we can possibly handle. Once you know what you have, you are free to scour the internet for additional helpful information.

    • Evan says:

      Shut up.

  6. sunshine says:

    They are at my friends shop and they have attacked her once before. They come after me and my husband on a regular. They sting is very painful and huge. My husband is allergic to them. Found that out the hard way, so i kill tjem as soon as i see them. Sorry if that makes you mad, but when they try to attack me they must go.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks . Two have got into my apartment and stung me. I hate them and will kill everyone I see. Bees are one thing but wasps are not.

  7. Artty says:

    These creatures are harmless, and amazing to watch. I have a bunch that fly all around the far edge of my back deck on any day that the sun is out shining. They never bother us at all. They did seem to grow in numbers over the past two or three months, which made me decide to look them up (and stumble into this site). I’m in Georgia and we have them in many locations across the state, we call them dirt devils here. I’m not going to bother the ones here, I can co-exist with non-threatening creatures living so closely. Heck, even my dog likes them. He tries to eat any type of bee, hornet, or wasp, but leaves the Great Black Wasp alone, completely.

  8. SL says:

    I think these are living in my wall, near a window. Occasionally they come through somehow and are inside the window in the den. Is this possible?

  9. Heidi says:

    Hi, I was hoping I could find some advice on the wasps that have made a home right out my front door and garage. From what I can tell they are all black, large, fast, and seem to be territorial/aggressive around what I presume to be their nesting area. They seem to be nesting in cracks in the concrete walkway right out my front door which spans the entire front entry path of our only front entrances to our house; the garage and the front door. I can’t even walk out my front door without having to run to get away from them. I look before I go out and don’t see them so I presume it’s safe. Then, once I head out the door BAM, they’re right on me. I don’t like killing any creatures and love bees and all pollinators because I am a gardener, but I need to be able to leave my house. Yesterday I couldn’t even finish mowing the lawn because they came at me when I got close to the walkway.

    • bugman says:

      These do not sound like social wasps, which tend to be more aggressive, but they sound like they might be solitary wasps that nest in a social setting. The behavior you describe might be males defending territory, but since males lack stingers, there is nothing to fear. Hearing that you have been buzzed but not stung leads us to believe you have encountered male wasps defending territory. We do not offer extermination advice and relocation is not an option, so we have no advice to offer.

      • Nan says:

        I’ll be happy to watch a video of you sitting on top of a nest of these pests..to watch you identify the difference between the non stinging male and the female. I’ll buy the beer!! I can’t wait for a good laugh!!

        • bugman says:

          We wonder if you will continue to laugh when we don’t get stung. Great Black Wasps are solitary species and females do not defend the nest. The stinger is used to paralyze Katydids, and while a person who mishandles a Great Black Wasp might get stung, we would gladly sit on a nest and bore you to tears when you tire as your expectations go unfulfilled.

  10. Aj says:

    I happily killed one of these wasps yesterday, and I’ll kill every last one that I see in the future. They are hideous pests. One will occasionally try to make a home under the cement steps that my kids use 100 times per day. The kiddos were terrified (and don’t try telling me these are NOT Great Black Wasps. They are. We confirmed with an exterminator). So, guess what: we’re at the top of the species chain, and the wasps have to go. Fyi, A tennis racket works GREAT to knock a wasp unconscious, and then just step on it. And yesterday, the kids chopped off a wasp’s back-end to get a closer look at the stinger. And the dismembered stinger kept moving in a stinging motion for over an hour! How is that possible?! Anyway, sorry bug loves, but not everyone sympathizes with these pests.

    • Not Happy says:

      LOL, I agree, its all fun and games till one of these 1 1/2″ monsters mounts your arm and stings you! like what happened to me yesterday.

  11. Karen says:

    I just saw the biggest wasp I have ever seen in my entire 63 years of life. It must have entered our porch through a tear in one of the screens- scared the living daylights out of me! I’m thinking it might be a Giant Black Wasp. I’m not much for flying bugs, however, I will leave it alone as along as it leaves me alone. I’m hoping it finds it’s way out- maybe when my husband gets home he can encourage it’s departure!

  12. Not Happy says:

    I was attack by one of these the other day. We have a large garden near the house with plenty of dragon flys, etc.. We also have social wasp problem of bald faced hornets and yellow jackets, i am well educated of those 2 social wasps as i have to kill them every yeat, had to erdicate 6 nests just to keep my house clear of them.

    So while i was trimming some bushes near the house i was shocked to see this monster 1 1/2″ black wasp monster that i had never seen before mount my arm and sting me. I was fortunate enou that i pushed her off me as she was stinging so i didnt get the full wallop. But i can assure you this wasp must be defended its nest. I am frightened to go outside near what I now commonly refer to as “her side of the house”.

  13. nox lumen says:

    Ok, so last year I noticed a blue black bug that looked like a wasp. Right size, right shape. And since I like the dark iridescent shimmer and it responded to me telling it to ‘go away’, I let it hang out around my front step. The black and yellow wasps and hornets respond to ‘go away’ with dominance displays and dive bombing, so they do not get a free pass on my porch, but bumbles and blue blacks seemed more reasonable.

    Well, this year we have what looks like a larger version of the same bug. Two inches. Yeah, that’s huge. No, I’m not confused about what keeps flying at my face, it’s two inches and blue black and shaped like a wasp. And it’s my front step. And there seem to be several of them in that size that Spectracide does nothing for. Now maybe I have mistaken these for the great black wasp and they have no stinger, but they are large and in my face and multiplying, so they get reclassified like a surplus of large wolf spiders in my house as ‘unwelcome’.

    Sure, the rest of the yard is fair game for whatever bugs my ecosystem comes with. I even mow around some of the weeds and let nature do it’s thing. But we all have limits, and mine have been reached. For a wasp that isn’t social, there sure seem to be a lot congregating on my front step.

  14. Kathryn says:

    Is there another species that looks black/blue? We have so many of these at our new house with all the wildflowers in the back. We also had something at our old house, where we had a second story apartment with outdoor stairs. Those seemed more aggressive. We often saw them perching on the wooden rail. One day my husband walked out on the top landing and was stung by two. Sure enough, we found a nest below. I always assumed the black/blue wasps here were the same, but after reading this, it sounds like the first ones were different from the GBW. Anything else in New Hampshire with a blue/black tinge?

  15. Jack says:

    Hang in there, Bugman. You are doing good work. I was stung by a GBW this afternoon in the New York countryside when I sat on the poor thing. It did hurt like hell, but whatever. I’m from Montana. I continued to sit at our wooden patio table (where it looks like it’s made a home) unmolested the rest of the day as it flew back and forth around me.

    • bugman says:

      Thanks for the support. We suspect getting “sat on” caused the Great Black Wasp that stung you to feel threatened.

  16. Nan says:

    The first comment after the initial post by the person that was supposedly chastising you, I feel they were spot-on as far as how you treated the person with the initial post. We have some of these Dreadful creatures inside our machine shed. Don’t tell me that they’re not aggressive because I see otherwise when I walk into the shed and if they are anywhere nearby they have a stance of a bulldog and they stop what they’re doing and rear up and just sit there waiting. I have been stung by normal black wasps. As a matter of fact a whole nest of them. I recall how painful it was but I really don’t want to try to experience what it feels like to be stung by such a large wasp. Like I said they have the characteristics of aggression. And maybe when you get around to it you could put a little bit more information out there about this creature as you promised. Otherwise just remain silent and we will continue to assume that you don’t know anything about them. In the meantime I plan to kill them. I also kill flies and spiders if you really want to know. So send your little followers to my door to judge me for killing a bug.

    • bugman says:

      Great Black Wasps nest underground, and not in sheds. Your identification is incorrect, and we maintain our original position.

  17. Janice Koppenhaver says:

    I think some of these comments are aggressive and rude! This is an informational site not a bashing people site. My experience with them has been a harmless one. Yes, they are annoying but they tend to mind there own business. They are on a mission for food. If you leave them alone, they will leave you alone. I believe they are pollinators as are bees, right bugman? Therefore, I let them be. That’s just me though.

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