Subject: What’s yellow and black and has a long stinger?
April 7, 2014 10:57 pm
I’m in Singapore and last night I looked down to find an insect crawling on my shoulder. (I was in bed, so…that was not fun.) It’s about the size of my thumb’s distal phalanx bone, and the stinger(?) looks quite long. Please help, I’m hoping it’s not a wasp!
Thanks for reading~
This is a Parasitic Wasp known as an Ichneumon, and for many years we claimed that Ichneumons did not sting. What you have taken for a stinger is actually the ovipositor of the female Ichneumon. We later learned that some Ichneumons are capable of stinging humans, but they are a rarity among the large number of members in the family. According to BugGuide: “arguably, the largest animal family, with the estimated 60,000 species worldwide (up to 100,000, according to some estimates.” As a side note, the stinger in bees and wasps is a modified ovipositor that has adapted to multitasking: laying eggs as well as stinging potential threats.
Thank you for the identification, and it’s good to know it’s unlikely to have stung me since it wasn’t that big! (I let it go later as well, so now I don’t have to feel too bad about letting a potentially harmful insect go around my place.) Also, huh, I always thought the stinger for bees/wasps was specifically for stinging. The more you know…!
Thanks again so much!
We should clarify one matter regarding the stingers of Bees and Wasps. Generally, social species have a queen and workers with the workers being sterile females. The stingers of the sterile, social workers, including Honey Bees and Hornets, only serves as a stinger. In those cases, the modification that has evolved is no longer capable of multitasking.