What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Big flying bug in western PA
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
July 19, 2014 11:06 pm
Hi – I’ve attached a photo of a flying bug that I found on my porch in Pittsburgh, PA. It was about two inches long – I’ve never seen anything like it ever.
Signature: Yinzer

Pigeon Horntail

Pigeon Horntail

Dear Yinzer,
This impressive creature is a Wood Wasp known as a Pigeon Horntail.  Your individual is a female and the organ that looks like a stinger is actually her ovipositor, which is used to deposit eggs  beneath the bark of dead and dying trees.  The larva are wood borers.  Pigeon Horntails do not sting.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2 Responses to Pigeon Horntail

  1. Curious Girl says:

    Okay, I know it is the same family but is this not really a sawfly rather than a wasp?

    • bugman says:

      Hi Curious Girl. According to BugGuide, the Pigeon Horntail belongs to the family Siricidae, the Horntails, and also in that family is Urocerus gigas which is commonly called a Giant Woodwasp, even on BugGuide. Ants, Bees, Wasps, Horntails, Woodwasps and Sawflies are all classified in the same order, Hymenoptera, but there is no classification between the order and family, except suborders and superfamilies. In some cases, similar families are classified together and those classifications are given names, but they do not actually fall neatly within the taxonomic structure. According to BugGuide, Horntails, Woodwasps and Sawflies are grouped together as Symphyta and this definition is provided: “A paraphyletic grouping of more basal hymenopteran lineages, previously known as Symphyta; phylogenetic relationships summarized in(1). The families are arranged into 7 superfamilies: Tenthredinoidea, with 6 families (Argidae, Blasticotomidae, Cimbicidae, Diprionidae, Pergidae, Tenthredinidae) is by far the largest; Siricoidea with two families (Anaxyelidae, Siricidae); Pamphilioidea with two families (Megalodontesidae [=Megalodontidae, not in our area], Pamphiliidae); while the remaining four superfamilies—Cephoidea, Xiphidrioidea, Xyeloidea, and Orussoidea—each consist of a single family.” BugGuide recognizes eight distinct Sawfly Families found in North America, so not all Sawflies are found in the same family. On What’s That Bug? we have classified all Horntails, Sawflies and Woodwasps together as a subcategory under Wasps and Hornets. We would never call a Horntail by the name Sawfly, but we do refer to them as Woodwasps in a popular vernacular. Then again, our classifications are based on popular culture more than actual scientific taxonomy since both Ants and Bees are given their own classifications that does not indicate any connection to Wasps, yet Symphyta are imbedded in the Wasps and Hornets classification as a subcategory.

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