Currently viewing the category: "Sand Wasps"

Subject: Giant bee?
Location: East coast Virginia, USA
August 15, 2017 7:10 pm
This monster was waiting for me as I went out to clean my pool one morning, luckily I caught it by surprise and was able to capture it under the filter basket before it had a chance to attack me. After a few shots of hornet spray, I changed my underwear and took a few pictures. Is this a spawn from hell, a just a really big bee? (Pictured next to a quarter for scale)
Signature: Nokturno

Cicada Killer Carnage

Dear Nokturno,
This is not “spawn from hell” nor is it a “Giant bee”.  This is a wasp known as a Cicada Killer.  Because they are big and scary, Cicada Killers frequently wind up dead when they encounter humans.  They are not aggressive and though female Cicada Killers are capable of stinging, they do not attack humans, so there was no need to spray it to death.  We hope your next encounter does not end in Unnecessary Carnage.

Subject: Unusual bee
Location: Suburbs of Chicago, IL
August 9, 2017 7:37 am
This was on our screen, and we have never seen a bee like this one. It was about 1 1/2 inches lond and its stinger was pulsing. Very scary! If possible, please let us know what it is and if it’s dangerous. Thank you!
Signature: Linda & Justin Meyer

Cicada Killer

Dear Linda and Justin,
This large wasp is a Cicada Killer.  Males defend territory and may buzz at humans, but they are perfectly harmless as they do not have stingers.  Female Cicada Killers are not aggressive.  They use their stinger to sting and paralyze Cicadas to feed to their brood which is housed in an underground burrow.

Subject: Strange Flying Insect, Dangerous?
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
July 29, 2017 8:21 pm
I was visiting Culver’s with my family and my son, we we’re having a nice time dining indoors. I’d gone outside for a smoke break with my mum, when we noticed these large, frightening looking insects flying about. Due to the fact that my father is allergic and there is the possibility that i may be myself (i’ve never been stung), it caused me a significant amount of concern. Though my curiousity seemed to override that as i Had to snap a picture of one. I’ve never seen it before.
Signature: With Great Interest, Kara

Cicada Killer

Dear Kara,
This is one of our favorite summer identification requests, the impressive Cicada Killer.  Male Cicada Killers act defensive and they are territorial, guarding good nesting areas in the hopes a female will arrive.  Male Cicada Killers are perfectly harmless as they do not have stingers.  Female Cicada Killers are not aggressive, and though they have the ability to sting, we cannot confirm anyone actually being stung.  Female Cicada Killers use the stinger to paralyze Cicadas that are dragged back to the burrow to serve as a live food for the developing brood.

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. We had not expected it to be harmless what-so-ever, it’s such a large bug (though i suppose it would only make sense as cicadas are larger bug themselves). Thank you again.

Subject: Flying bee- or hornet-like insect
Location: Pennsylvania (Philadelphia suburbs)
July 21, 2017 6:48 am
These bugs (2-3) fly around my front lawn during the day. They don’t seem aggressive; I just typically walk trough them if they’re flying in my path. They are rather large and bigger (and probably less segmented) than a bee or hornet would be.
Signature: Ken

Cicada Killer

Dear Ken,
This large wasp is a Cicada Killer, and your submission is our first report of the season.  People fear Cicada Killers because of their size and behavior.  Male Cicada Killers are harmless as they cannot sting, but they will patrol an area favorable for nesting and chase other creatures away.  Female Cicada Killers sting and paralyze Cicadas to feed the larva that develop in underground burrows.  Though they are capable of stinging, the female Cicada Killer is not aggressive and she does not defend her nest. 

Subject: Bee or Fly?
Location: Swansboro, NC
May 21, 2017 3:56 pm
Is it a bee or a fly? I thought maybe a hoverfly? I’m at a loss. My friend took the picture in her yard.
Signature: Miss Sheila

Horse Guard Wasp, we believe

Dear Miss Sheila,
This critter has four wings, so it is definitely NOT a fly.  We believe it is a Sand Wasp as the abdominal markings remind us a bit of a Cicada Killer.  The closest match we could find is a Horse Guard Wasp,
Stictia carolina, but as you can see by comparing your image to this BugGuide image, that is not exact.  We will contact Eric Eaton for assistance.  Based on this BugGuide image, we now believe the Horse Guard Wasp might be correct, but the abdominal markings seem to vary.  Eric Eaton is quoted on BugGuide as stating:  “a really big sand wasp (just behind the cicada killer). They get their name by hanging out around equines and pouncing on tabanids which they paralyze and stuff into their burrows for their offspring.”  Also according to BugGuide:  “‘The horse-guard (Monedula carolina Drury), a predaceous wasp, is among the more important checks on the horsefly. These wasps lay their eggs in burrows and watch over them until they hatch. As soon as larvae appear, the wasps supply them with food, which consists of horsefly adults. The wasp frequents pastures where they pick the flies off the molested horses and cattle and carry them to their nests.’ — Bernard Segal, Synopsis of the Tabanidæ of New York, Their Biology and Taxonomy: I. The Genus Chrysops Meigen, Journal of the New York Entomological Society 44(1):51-78 (1936).”

Subject: Hornet / Wasp
Location: Grapevine Texas
August 30, 2016 4:13 pm
Found these 3 on my back patio and haven’t luck figuring out what they are. I have found similar looking ones but the sizes are always listed quite a bit smaller than these bad boys.
Signature: – Tegan

Cicada Killer Carnage

Cicada Killers found Dead

Dear Tegan,
Looking at your image of three dead Cicada Killers saddens us.  Cicada Killers are large and scary looking, but they are solitary wasps that are not aggressive towards people.  Cicada Killers prey upon Cicadas.  The female Cicada Killer stings and paralyzes her prey, which she then drags back to her subterranean nest to provide food for her brood.  We hope you will learn to tolerate Cicada Killers in the future.

Thank you for the info Daniel!  If it makes you feel better I did not kill them.  I came home from a trip and they had gotten through a hole in my screened in patio and were unable to escape.  Thanks again for taking the time to look at this!!!
– Tegan

Thanks for letting us know that this was NOT Unnecessary Carnage.

I won’t lie, they freaked me out a bit when I found them as I have never encountered wasps that big.  Glad to know I am not their prey 🙂  Hole in the screen is patched so hopefully it won’t happen again!  Thanks again for taking the time!!