Location: Northern Virginia
August 12, 2011 6:16 pm
We found this wasp outside of my parents home in Northern Virginia (Stafford). It was about 7 cm long with a 1.5cm stinger. The wings were iridescent blue. What kind of wasp is this?? I’ve never seen this kind of insect in California and hope to keep it that way!
Signature: Freaked out in Cali
Dear Freaked out in Cali,
You encountered a Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba. Despite its fearsome appearance, it is perfectly harmless, and what you have mistaken for a stinger is actually the ovipositor that the female uses to deposit her eggs under the bark of trees with compromised health. The Pigeon Horntail is a Wood Wasp and the larvae bore in wood. The Pigeon Horntail is the host insect to another fearsome nonstinging wasp relative, the Giant Ichneumons in the genus Megarhyssa, which parasitizes the larvae using an ovipositor that can be five inches long. Stinging insects like bees and wasps sting with an ovipositor that is modified for defensive purposes. California has its own California Wood Wasp, Urocerus californicus, however, it is generally found in wooded areas, not in urban environments.