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My name is Andrew Gable. I have a question to ask about the possible identification of an apparent bee or wasp I saw. In October-November of the year (can’t remember the exact time, but approximately 1997 or ’98), while attending Lock Haven University in northern Pennsylvania, I saw a strange insect lying on the ground. I rememebr it was quite late in the year, and I thought it was awfully cool out to be seeing a bug of any sort. The insect appeared to resemble a yellow jacket or wasp, and had the typical yellow-and-black pattern though it was quite large (approximately an inch and a half to two inches in length). Its abdomen and thorax appeared somewhat flattened, though whether this was due to injury or natural appearance I can’t be certain. It didn’t appear injured, however. It was winged (its wings were long, and ‘clear’ like a fly’s). It also appeared to be somewhat glossy. It was, to the best of my judgment, near death. There was a vacant lot nearby, as well as a fairly large garden, so I don’t discount the possibility that it could have been a burrowing insect of some sort (I believe many of the stinging insects live in burrows).
When I returned via the same path fifteen or twenty minutes later, the insect was gone, and I can only assume that it somehow found the strength to fly off. I’ve often tried to determine what this thing may have been to no avail, and would appreciate any help.
Thanks in advance.
Andrew D. Gable

We suspect Andrew saw a Ci cada Killer, and his measurements were closer to the actual size, a thing many of our readers tend to exaggerate.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I’d love info on these delightful little visitors as we seem to have a family who lives/visits our yard every spring. I cannot leave the house.

Hi Annie,
The Cicada Killers, Specius speciosus and Sphecius grandis, are large solitary wasps that often live in colonies, hence your comment about the family situation. They produce one generation a year, and you are being visited by the offspring of the previous year’s visitors. The wasps are large, nearly 1 2/3 inches in body length, with a much larger wingspan, and they feed on nectar and pollen. Mating males are sometimes aggressive, and females will deliver a nasty sting if provoked. It is the female who kills the cicadas. She hunts for them on tree trunks after digging a burrow. She stings the cicada, paralyzing it, then flies back to her burrow with the now immobile, yet living food source for her brood. Each burrow contains one or two cicadas, and when the solitary egg hatches, the larva has a fresh food supply.
Ckeck out the Cicada Killer Thriller Page at /thriller/thriller.htm

Thank you so much!! My exterminator was totally clueless (so I had to capture one and look online to find out about it – that’s how I knew it’s name) but I’ve now that I’ve seen them in my yard I’ve seen them around a lot more – don’t know if it’s a case of knowing what I’m looking for or if they’re really settling in around South Orange, NJ, but I do appreciate your great information on them. Poor cicadas – darn that must hurt! I’d noticed how aggressive the males are – especially if you fill up their burrow and they can’t get back in ;)Best,
Annie Modesitt
Craft Writer / Knitting Designer
South Orange, NJ

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Dear Bugman:
I live in the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California, and for the last week or two we have had a new kind of bug flying in large numbers around our house. I’ve included some pictures of them so that you know what they look like (I apologize if the size of the e-mail causes any problems for you.) At first we thought they were just mosquito hawks, but on further examination they are much uglier. They are nocturnal and attracted to light, and we have perhaps a dozen a night or more swarming around our outside lights, and usually a few that get inside the house. They are about an inch to an inch and a half in length, and are one of the more disturbing bugs I’ve seen. They don’t seem to match up with any of the pictures I found of termites or flying ants, but I really want to know if they are since that would be a big problem for the house! At about the same time these bugs appeared, there also have cropped up a couple of spots on the lawn where the dirt looks almost bubbly – I have no idea if that’s related, but I thought it may be some kind of nest. Please let me know what kind of bug this is so I can stop worrying or get rid of them, whichever is appropriate.
Thank you very much.

Dear Helga,
Seldom do we get such a concise description accompanied by such wonderful documentation. There is no speculation regarding my identification. You have a species of Ichneumon wasp, Family Ichneumonidae. These are small solitary wasps which have smaller and slenderer bodies and legs than social and semi-social types. The abdomen is compressed from side to side. Some species are as small as gnats, and the larger ones are up to an inch in length. The specimen you photographed belongs to the genus Ophion. All Ichneumons are parasitic on other insects, and many feed on caterpillars. According to Hogue, "The eggs are inserted into the body of the host by means of the females short sharp ovipositor (which incidentally can penetrate human skin). The larvae feed on the internal tissues and, when mature, pupate within the host." They are important biological controls for many agricultural pests. Your possible nest is obviously something else. The adults are often attracted to lights at night.

Thank you very much. Now I can stop worrying. 🙂

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination