Subject: Is this a wood wasp?
Location: North Yorkshire England
August 6, 2014 2:25 pm
Hi I was at work today putting up a fence when I felt a pain in my leg. I looked and was not sure what it was I knocked it away and in doing so unfortunately killed the insect. It had however stung me and it is incredibly painful even now 10 hours later. I am from the north east of England and have never seen such a creature please help me identify it!
Signature: James Rowe

Great Wood Wasp

Great Wood Wasp

Dear James,
This is indeed a Great Wood Wasp, and we are quite surprised to learn of your experience.  According to UK Safari:  “The female (above) has a long pointed tube at the back of her body, and this is often mistaken for a stinging organ. In fact it’s an ovipositor, which she uses to lay her eggs in the trunks of coniferous trees. Despite their appearance, these insects are quite harmless.”  Knowing that and also knowing that the female lays her eggs beneath the surface of the bark of a tree, we believe it is entirely possible that this Great Wood Wasp mistook your leg for a conifer, and tried to lay eggs.  Do you use pine scented soap?  We do not believe she was trying to sting you.  It is also possible that she used her powerful mandibles to nibble at your leg.

Dear Daniel,
Thank you for your speedy and informative response. This is indeed very likely as I was at the time building a fence using pine timber and it is very possible that the timber would have come into contact with my leg. There is in all 5 “sting” marks on my leg so it is possible that she has had a nibble. It is rather swollen and painful. What could this be? It does feel like a general bee/wasp sting. Could she have laid her eggs?
Many Thanks,
James Rowe

Hi again James,
This is quite perplexing and contrary to all we have read, so we are tagging this posting as a mystery.  We suppose if you were jabbed with her ovipositor accidentally, it is also possible that she deposited eggs.  Unless you have a wooden leg, you shouldn’t have much to worry about, however, as we are not medical doctors, should any irritation persist, you might want to seek medical attention.

Eric Eaton Concurs
I would concur with your assessment, except I doubt she would have laid eggs.  After five attempts she may have concluded “this is not a tree.”  In any event, I agree he should seek medical attention if symptoms persist or get worse.

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Location: North Yorkshire, England

10 Responses to Wood Wasp “stings” man in England

  1. f g williams adforton says:

    great wood wasp found on larch log in adforton south shropshire laying her eggs

  2. f g williams adforton says:

    great wood wasp seen on larch log at Adforton Craven Arms shrops

  3. Mary says:

    Great wood wasp seen in my yard daily, in assuming she has a nest neer. Its huge and very menacing looking, I wish it would stay put of my yard!

  4. Ariane says:

    I have been searching the internet because I know of two different people saying they got stung, by these horntails. Whether it was a sting or really a bite is unknown..

    Because of this I am very skeptical of the idea that they won’t defend themselves if they need to…. Seeing how we constantly discover things about species we thought we knew everything about, I feel more research is warranted in that regard.

    One friend said his elbow was swollen the size of a grapefruit for days.

    I watched one laying her eggs into a freshly cut log yesterday, on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. But because of these accounts I was cautious to keep a distance. Maybe there are times when they are more prone to defend themselves which may not have been observed officially yet. Maybe they are more aggressive during a laying session?

  5. joanne Parry says:

    hi, iv just been re searching due to just having one of these come into my garden, iv taken pictures and then googled and it was the giant wood wasp. The only think is we are not by woodland but the garden does back onto a patch of land that had trees on and they where cut down last year but has been left and gone wild now. Im in Blackpool North west England.

  6. nigel says:

    Just saw my first ever giant wood wasp, (Epping , Essex) grandkids in huge panick over the Giant wasp ? was a bit nervous as assumed it was a large hornet.

  7. Goib says:

    Just had a wood wasp in my kitchen in kent. First sighting of wood wasp was last year, it was constantly going under our decking, but never came near us.
    They look menacing, but they do not appear to be aggressive. Actually quite impressive to look.

  8. Aaron says:

    Just seen one of these in norfolk. Thought it was a may bug at first due to it being so big and actually hearing it fly, till it landed next to me and scared the life out of me.

  9. Kathryn says:

    Whilst sat in my kitchen in East Yorkshire, I felt a sharp stab in my shoulder today, like a needle going in & when I looked this insect was the cause. Must have thought I was a tree!

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