Do American Pelecinid Wasp Sting?

If you look from afar, it looks like the Pelecinids have a huge stinger. So, do American Pelecinid wasps sting? Let’s find out!

The American pelecinid wasp belongs to the family Pelecinidae and is a new world wasp. This little insect can appear to be scary with its long, curled, stinger-like organ.

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But in reality, it’s a curled abdomen and not a stinger.

American pelecinid wasps don’t sting. Their curled abdomen acts like a faux stinger when ambushed or attacked, as they may simply jab it against the predator.

However, these insects are not poisonous and will not sting.

Do American Pelecinid Wasp Sting
American Pelecinid

What Are American Pelecinid Wasps?

American pelecinid wasps are parasitoid wasps belonging to the superfamily of Proctotrupoidea and Pelecinidae. They are the only species to fall under the genus Pelecinus.

Parasitoids should not be confused with parasites. They’re somewhere between parasites and predators.

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While parasites keep their host alive, parasitoids kill the host tissue to survive.

An interesting point of information is that most of the APW population occurring in North America is female.

Male APWs are almost non-existent. Female wasps do not need a mate to reproduce.

They breed through a method called parthenogenesis, where eggs do not need to be fertilized to develop an embryo.

What Do They Look Like?

The American pelecinid wasps (APWs henceforth) are black in color, thin, and have a glossy appearance with very long antennae.

While female APW grows up to two and a half inches in size, the male adult wasp grows only upto an inch.

A distinct thing about their appearance is their long, curled abdomen that looks like a stinger or a tail.

Pelecinid

Despite their relatively small size, the abdomen of female wasps is almost five times their body size.

They use this to deposit eggs directly on the host. The abdomen of male wasps is shorter than that of females. APWs also have short wings and are slow flyers.

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Where Are They Found?

Geographically, APWs are widespread across North America as well as Central and South America.

In the North, they are spotted across the eastern states and east of the Rocky Mountains. They’re also commonly found in Canada and Argentina.

As far as their habitat is concerned, these shiny black wasps inhabit open fields, grasslands, forest edges, woodlands, and gardens. They’re usually found on the forest floor as they tend to fly closer to the ground. APWs are also found in deciduous forests.

What Do They Eat?

The adult wasp feeds on pollen, nectar, and water. This is why you will often notice APWs inside flowers and in gardens. They’re a herbivore species of wasps.

Their larvae, however, are parasitoids and feed on their host. When it’s time to lay eggs, female wasps will fly close to the ground and lay the egg on June beetle larvae, i.e., white grubs.

American Pelicinid

They do so with the help of their curved abdomen.

Once the larva hatches, it feeds on the grub until it dies. At this point, the immature wasp will continue to feed on the grub tissue till it pupates in the same soil.

Are American Pelecinid Wasps Dangerous?

American pelecinid wasps are not dangerous as far as species of wasps go. Their appearance is scary with their curled black abdomens that look like a long stinger.

But these are harmless wasps.

Adult APWs are herbivores and live on a pollen, nectar, and water diet.

Do They Sting/Bite?

As discussed above, American pelecinid wasps do not have stingers. They have a curled abdomen used to deposit eggs and act as faux stingers to scare predators.

At most, they may use the abdomen to push a predator or threat away. But beyond that, they are not capable of biting or stinging.

Are They Poisonous Venomous?

No, American pelecinid wasps are not poisonous or venomous. Their abdomen is actually the long, narrow organ resembling a stinger or a tail.

And since they have no proper stinger, there is no way for them to deposit any kind of poison or venom.

Are American Pelecinid Wasps Beneficial?

American pelecinid wasps play a dual ecological role in the environment. One is controlling insect pest populations carried out by the wasp larvae.

Second, they play the role of pollinators once they mature into adult wasps.

Let’s take a more detailed look at these two roles.

American pelecinid wasps are beneficial in controlling the populations of June beetles.

The white beetle grubs feed on the roots of plants and can pose potential issues in the crop and grass systems.

The female wasps track down the white grubs of June beetles and lay their eggs on them.

The pelecinid wasp larvae are parasitoids that feed on the exoskeleton of the beetle grubs and feed on it till it dies.

And it’s not limited to June beetles. Parasitoid wasps are essential in naturally controlling the population of insect pests.

They lay eggs on top of arthropods and cause their death by feeding on them.

In their second role as pollinators, once the larvae mature into adult wasps, they step into their essential role in pollination, like bees and butterflies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Pelecinus polyturator bite?

American Pelecinid Wasps do not generally bite humans, and they even appear to avoid human disturbance.
However, they will bite if they feel threatened or come into contact with skin. Their venom is not deadly, although it can cause discomfort and swelling.
It is best to leave them alone if you spot them around your home, as they are beneficial creatures that help reduce garden pests.

Where is the American Pelecinid wasp found?

The American Pelecinid wasp is found in most parts of the United States and Canada, as well as parts of Mexico and Central America.
It prefers dry, arid regions with little vegetation or water. In particular, it is commonly found in desert-like environments such as cactus-rich areas, roadsides, and urban centers.
This species of wasp is part of the spider wasp family and can be identified by its black body and long abdomen, which looks like a stinger.

What is a scorpion wasp?

Scorpion wasps are a family of insects well known for their spectacular morphological structure, with the ability to paralyze or even kill their prey before eating it.
These wasps have venomous barbed stingers and vary in size from 10-45 mm long. They come in a range of colors, from black to yellow and red, depending on the species.
The larvae feed on paralyzed arthropods that are brought back to the nest by their mothers.
Adult wasps feed mainly on flower nectar and are important pollinators within their ecosystems.

What does a scorpion wasp look like?

The scorpion wasp is a metallic black or blue colored, medium-sized insect with some yellow markings.
Its wings are long and narrow, and it typically measures about one inch in length.
It has two long, curved antennae as well as two pairs of short and stout legs which give it the appearance of a small crab or crayfish.
Its most notable feature is its large stinger located near the end of its body which can be used to paralyze prey before consuming them.
The scorpion wasp is an impressive and remarkable species.

Wrap Up

American pelecinid wasps are a harmless species of wasps. They have a long narrow organ that looks like a stinger but is an elongated abdomen.

The females use the curled abdomen to lay eggs during the breeding season.

In the absence of a proper stinger, these wasps are not capable of biting or stinging.

Thank You.

Reader Emails

American Pelecinids look quite scary from afar, as you can see from the several emails we have received from our readers over the years.

But a closer inspection tells us that they are quite harmless, and actually beneficial to us.

Do go through the email to understand why people are so scared of them!

Letter 1 – American Pelecinid

 

Dragonfly-ish???
Hello, Thank you for all your hard work! My 6yr old Jenna and myself spend alot of time here, especially since we’ve moved back to “Buggy old Michigan” as Jenna says. Our question today is regarding this flying buggy that looks to me like a dragonfly with a scorpioin like tail that appears to have a stinger (created much controversy in our neighborhood of bugs to beware)??? We are very curious as the population of these guys is increasing this month. Thanks Again
Jenna and Shelly

Hi Jenna and Shelly,
The population explosion of the American Pelecinid might be a good thing. These non-stinging relatives of wasps use that long ovipositor to lay eggs underground in the burrows of beetle grubs. The grubs are parasitized. There might be a future population explosion of destructive June Beetles if you kill the Pelecinids. Pelecinids are totally harmless.

Letter 2 – American Pelecinid

 

What’s this Bug?
Hi
I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of insect this is in these pictures?
Thanks in advance
Greg

Hi Greg,
The female American Pelecinid uses that odd shaped abdomen to deposit eggs deep in the ground where the larval food, May Beetle grubs can be found. The adult drinks nectar. Males are very rare. This is the only North American species in the Family Pelecinidae.

Letter 3 – American Pelecinid

 

Odd Dragonfly-like bug
The attached picture is of a flying bug we have seen several tiems in the last few weeks near Flint, Michigan. I’ve searched high and low and cannot figure out exactly what it is. It appears to be a type of dragonfly. Can you help? Thanks,
Tiffany

hi Tiffany,
This is an American Pelecinid, a non-stinging wasp relative that parasitizes June Beetle Grubs. The American Pelecinid is the only member of its family found in the U.S.

Letter 4 – American Pelecinid

 

Last hope
Gentlemen;
Glad I found your site. Checked every I.D source available ( except yours ) to no avail. I suspect this bug is not of this world. Can you help?. It was sitting on a car bumper at my cottage 60 miles North of Montreal on a hot summer day. The body was about 1 1/2 inch long and the tail another two or three! Plus how does that thing fly?. Thanks for your help.
Regards Bob Alie

Hi Bob,
This is an American Pelecinid, Pelecinus polyturator, a parasitic wasp and the only North American species in the family. The female, and your specimen is a female, inserts her long abdomen into the ground to lay eggs on burrowing scarab beetle grubs that will provide food for her progeny. She flies with the use of her wings.

Letter 5 – American Pelecinid

 

Curled up tail and wings
Sat, May 9, 2009 at 5:57 PM
This bug was found outside, in the twin cities metro are of Minnesota. The size of the bug was rather small, a few centimeters. I hope the image is good enough for you to see and hopefully figure out what it is.
TK
Minnesota

American Pelecinid
American Pelecinid

Dear TK,
The very unique American Pelecinid, Pelecinus polyturator, is not likely to be confused with any other North American insect. Your specimen is a female, and she uses her unusual abdomen to parasitize the grubs of scarab beetles. According to BugGuide: “Parasitoids of insect larvae that feed on decomposing wood, etc. These include larvae of scarab beetles, esp. May Beetles ( Phyllophaga ). Also reported to parasitize wood-boring insects. Female thrusts ovipositor into soil to detect host, lays one egg on each. Pelecinid larva burrows into the beetle larva, killing it. Wasp larva scavenges remains and pupates there in soil. ” BugGuide also indicates this surprising information: “In North American populations, males are rare, and reproduction is apparently largely by parthenogenesis (Brues, 1928). In tropical populations (or species), males are more abundant.” Lastly, BugGuide also states: “Typically August-September. Reported July-August (Minnesota), June-September (North Carolina)” which could make this early sighting another indication of global warming. Insects are often quite adaptable, and changes in their habit force them to adjust quickly as their life cycles are generally less than a year.

Letter 6 – American Pelecinid

 

looks like a flying scorpion
September 7, 2009
this fly landed at my camp table over the weekend in the Adirondack region of NY. I thought it immediately looked like a flying scorpion and looked it up online. There are scorpionflies, but this one doesn’t resemble that. Any ideas?
perplexed in the north country
Long Lake, Adirondacks, NY

American Pelecinid
American Pelecinid

Dear perplexed,
This is a parasitic Hymenopteran known as the American Pelecinid, Pelecinus polyturator.  The pictured individual, like most individuals, is a female.  The female American Pelecinid uses her long ovipositor to locate subterranean grubs from May Beetles and other Scarabs and lays an egg.  The young wasp then feeds on the beetle grub, eventually killing it.  Our new great obsession in the insect world is nonsexual reproduction, or parthenogenesis.  The American Pelecinid males are quite rare, and most females reproduce without a mate.  According to BugGuide:  “In North American populations, males are rare, and reproduction is apparently largely by parthenogenesis (Brues, 1928). In tropical populations (or species), males are more abundant.

Letter 7 – American Pelecinid

 

Winged black bug with 2 inch hook-like thing
September 14, 2009
Dear Bugman,
I awoke this morning, and on my window screen I found this bug. It’s about 3 inches long, and black. It has a long, hooked appendage below its wings. It’s 6 segments, but possibly 7. The very tip is at an angle, but it’s only a millimeter or two, so I’m not sure if it’s another segment or just the end of the 6th. I’m not sure if it’s some type of stinger, because although the end is tapered, it doesn’t look very sharp. I found it at about 10:00 AM in Fargo, North Dakota today, so during the end of summer and fall is when this picture is from.
Scary Bug Girl
Fargo, North Dakota

American Pelecinid
American Pelecinid

Dear Scary Bug Girl,
This nonstinging wasp relative is an American Pelecinid.  Its profile is very distinctive.  The female of the species (your individual is a female) uses her long abdomen to deposit eggs underground near burrowing May Beetle Grubs that her larvae will feed upon.  We love your photograph.

Letter 8 – American Pelecinid

 

Long scorpion like tail.
September 20, 2009
This picture taken today, September 20, 2009 in the Northern reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Iron River.
I think it is some sort of a wood borer that uses it’s long segmented tail to burrow deep under the bark of a tree and lay it’s eggs.
During the first attempt to take a picture of this bug it flew off but thankfully it is not a fast flyer and landed only a few yards from where it began.
Dick Boyd
Iron River, MI

American Pelecinid
American Pelecinid

Dear Dick,
We have posted several images of the American Pelecinid recently, but your photo shows the most detail.  The female of the species, which is represented in your photograph, uses her long abdomen to lay her eggs underground near burrowing grubs of May Beetles.  The larvae of the American Pelecinid then parasitize the beetle grubs.

Letter 9 – American Pelecinid

 

Some sort of Dragonfly Species?
June 10, 2010
I was outside during mid afternoon doing some yard work, and out of the corner of my eye, this strange bug caught my attention. At first glance, it looked like a dragon fly, but it looked to odd to be one. It’s body appears to be much longer than a dragon fly. The body is also broken up into 5 segments and has what appears to be some type of stinger at the end of it’s body. It also kept arching it’s body up and down and you can see what I mean in the pictures. It was all black and had no distinctive markings or other colors. I also held it to get another good picture and from the head to the end of it’s tail was about 3 inches.
Buggy For Bugs
Detroit Michigan

American Pelecinid

Dear Buggy,
This is an American Pelecinid, the only member of its family in the continental U.S.  The American Pelecinid is a parasitoid wasp that preys upon the grubs of June Beetles that live underground.  Your specimen is a female and the female American Pelecinid uses her long jointed abdomen to lay an egg underground on or near a burrowing white beetle grub.  When the egg hatches, the larval Pelecinid feeds upon the grub.  We are presetting your letter to post live to our site between June 15 and June 23 as we will be in Ohio visiting mom for a week, and we want our readership to continue to get live daily postings in our absence.

Thank you for the fast response! It was most certainly an interesting bug and never have I seen that before. I was also surprised to learn that the American Pelecinid is part of the wasp family.

Letter 10 – American Pelecinid

 

Unknown insect
Location:  Banks of the Potomac River in DC
July 24, 2010 9:27 am
Found this bug on the branch of a willow tree while having a picnic along the Potomac River in DC It has an abdomen similar to a dragonfly, two transparent wings and the head similar to a grasshopper. Any ideas???
Todd

American Pelecinid

Greetings Todd,
Your letter is the third identification request we responded to this week inquiring about the identity of the American Pelecinid,
Pelecinus polyturator, but the photos on the earlier two letters were blurry and of a general poor quality, unlike your stunning silhouette against the capital’s skyline.  The American Pelecinid is the only North American species in the genus and family, and it does range as far south as Argentina.  It resembles no other insect, so our identification of your silhouette should be undisputed.  It shows the female wasp, who uses her long abdomen to bury her eggs beneath the surface of the ground into the burrows of the grubs of June Beetles that are feeding on the roots of turf and grasses.  Interestingly, according to BugGuide:  “In North American populations, males are rare, and reproduction is apparently largely by parthenogenesis (Brues, 1928). In tropical populations (or species), males are more abundant.

Thanks Daniel, I was with my girlfriend who is a scientist at the National Zoo in DC and she assumed it was a type of wasp but neither of us had ever seen this insect. We appreciate your email. Feel free to post the picture! I will be using your site alot now that I have found it.
Todd

Letter 11 – American Pelecinid

 

What is this bug?
Location:  Madison, Maine
August 7, 2010 12:01 pm
Hi, I am in Maine and have an outside light on my garage. In the mornings, I find many interesting bugs, however, this one is very unusual to me.
Jeff Brazier

American Pelecinid

Hi Jeff,
This very distinctive insect is a Parasitoid Hymenopteran known as an American Pelecinid.  Your individual is a female, and she uses her flexible abdomen to lay eggs underground where they can parasitize the grubs of June Beetles.

Letter 12 – American Pelecinid

 

Dragonfly looking insect, with inverted scorpion tail
Location:  Lakewood, CO
August 12, 2010 3:59 am
Hi, I live in Colorado, and came home to find an all black, skinny insect. This bug, looks like a dragonfly, with a long, skinny, inverted, segmented scorpion-like tail, the mid and hind legs, looked like the bug has big calves, the wings were a see-through black, the head was small, with a larger thorax, 3 sets of legs, and two antennae.
Creepily awaitng

American Pelecinid

Dear Creepily awaitng,
This is a parasitoid wasp known as an American Pelecinid that preys upon the subterranean grubs of June Beetles.

Letter 13 – American Pelecinid

 

Black Bug with Scorpion-like Tail
Location:  Delevan, NY (Western end of NY)
September 11, 2010 8:10 pm
Just wondering if you can identify this bug! I’ve never seen anything like it…
Signature:  Amy

American Pelecinid

Dear Amy,
First we want to compliment you on the quality and detail in your photograph.  This is an American Pelecinid, the only member of its family native to North America.  This Parasitoid Wasp is a female and she uses her long abdomen to deposit her eggs underground near the burrows of June Beetle Grubs that are feeding on roots.  The wasp larvae feed on the beetle grubs.  It is unlikely that the American Pelecinid will ever be confused with another North American insect because it is so distinctive in its shape.

Letter 14 – American Pelecinid

 

Subject: Strange bug
Location: Grand Forks, North Dakota
August 4, 2012 11:31 pm
Hi, I have never taken a photo of a bug before but this one was something I have never seen before. This bug was walking on my car on a cool summer day (August 4, 2012) in Grand Forks, North Dakota. We never have ”strange” bugs here because of the harsh winters (I think) so when I saw this I guess I kind of freaked out.
Signature: Mrs. Reiser

American Pelecinid

Dear Mrs. Reiser,
This is a female American Pelecinid, and your description of it being “strange” is very appropriate since it is the only member of its family found in North America.  The female American Pelecinid uses her long, flexible abdomen to lay eggs underground on or close to the subterranean grubs of June Beetles.  The American Pelecinid is classified as a parasitic Hymenopteran, an insect order that contains wasps and bees, however the American Pelecinid does not sting and is not a threat to humans.

Letter 15 – American Pelecinid

 

Please tell me what this bug is
I retain rights to this image.
Thanks,
Ted

Hi Ted,
We are posting your image, but we are a non profit site and will not reproduce it in any future publications. Your Odd Looking Wasp is Pelecinus polyturator, a large and striking insect. According to Borror and Delong: “The female is 2 inches or more in length, shining black, with the abdomen very long and slender; the male, which is extremely rare in this country, is about an inch long and has the posterior part of the abdomen swollen. The females do not sting. this insect is parasitic on the larvae of June Beetles.” Our Audubon Guide also adds: “Female shoves its abdomen deep into soil to detect host larvae below, then lays eggs one at a time, each on a separate host. Pelecinid larvae burrow into hosts, killing them. They scavange on remains.”

Letter 16 – American Pelecinid

 

same bug, white background
Hi Bugman. My bug friend, or one of its friends, has returned. This photo shows the bug against a white background, so maybe that will help. Thank you again.
Jackie

Hi Jackie,
First, we cannot locate your original letter, so we don’t know what other information you provided. This is an American Pelecinid, a relative of wasps and hornets that does not sting. Your specimen is a female. She thrusts her long abdomen into the ground to lay eggs on May Beetles and other scarabs. This is the only member of the family in North America.

Letter 17 – American Pelecinid

 

Bug for you.
I’m about 1 hour north or Toronto, Ontario, and saw this bug around Mid August. Someone told me it was a “Ichneumon”, but from the ones on your site, it did not quite look the same. Can you confirm for me?
Mark

Hi Mark,
The American Pelecinid is grouped with the wasps within the order Hymenoptera. The larval Pelecinids feed on June Beetle Grubs.

Letter 18 – American Pelecinid

 

help identify this fly please!
Fly was photographed in Northern Minnesota. Never seen anything like it before. Thanks!
Phil Carlson

Hi Phil,
This non-stinging wasp relative is known as the American Pelecinid.

Letter 19 – American Pelecinid

 

What’s this bug?
This bug came flying out of the blackness of the night and attacked me. I am not normally afraid of bugs but this thing freaked me out and I flicked it away and it flew into my friends basement. We managed to sneak up on it and take some pictures of it. We have been searching around on the internet to try and figure out what it is but we haven’t found anything very conclusive, the closest resemblance we have found are pictures of Ichneumon but their tails don’t look as mean as this things tail. It’s tail looks more like a scorpion tail and the Ichneumon tails look thinner like antennae or something. It is hard to tell from the pictures but it is about 2-3 inches long including its tail. We live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. If you can look at the attached pics and let us know it would be greatly appreciated.Thanks in advance.
Ryan

Hi Ryan,
The female American Pelecinid is harmless. She uses her long abdomen to parasitize subterranean June Beetle Grubs by thrusting it into the ground and laying eggs when she locates a grub. These are non-stinging relatives of the wasps.

Letter 20 – American Pelecinid

 

4 great iPhotos
Hello,
I am very curious to know what this beautiful insect is called. I have been searching your site and the closest thing that resembled “my” insect was a photo of a broad winged damselfly. These two insects look very similar but, upon closer inspection, also very different. I live in Prince Edward Island, Canada. This insect was very content to sit on my hand and groom himself for quite sometime and did not mind being handled at all! If you get a chance, please help me out in identifying this shiny black bug. Thank you,
Candace Best

Hi Candace,
We do believe this is the most beautiful image of an American Pelecinid we have ever received. This is a non-stinging relative of wasps that uses its long flexible abdomen to lay eggs underground where the larval food source, beetle grubs, live. By the way, your insect is a female.

Letter 21 – American Pelecinid

 

what’s this?
This bug is hanging out on my front patio in Lyons, Colorado. What is it?
Dan Greenberg
Lyons, CO

Hi Dan,
This is an American Pelecinid. The female uses her long abdomen to deposit eggs in the soil near burrowing June Beetle Grubs. The larval wasp then feeds on the beetle grubs.

Letter 22 – American Pelecinid

 

Crazy winged insect
Location: Central New York
August 18, 2011 2:18 pm
Please help me identify this bug. Thank you so much for your time. Your website is great. I love clicking around. Thanks again.
Signature: -p

American Pelecinid

Dear -p,
This is the first photo we have received of the distinctive American Pelecinid this year.  It is the only member of its family in the U.S..  She is equipped with a long jointed abdomen that can locate the grubs of June Beetles underground.  She lays an egg on each grub she locates and the larval wasp feeds parasitically on a living creature until it is dead.  The American Pelecinid larva then pupates among the remains of the grub in the underground chamber the Scarab grub has created for feeding on the roots of grasses. 

Letter 23 – American Pelecinid

 

Scorpion like but it flies
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
September 6, 2011 7:56 pm
One on the wood for our fencing in my very own backyard – yuck – the other on the window of a fastfood restaurant in a complete opposite side of the city! People think I find all the creepy critters – I’m curious what it could be – at first I thought dragonfly nymph – but not even close!!
Signature: Thanks so much! Sherrill Jamnmom

American Pelecinid

Dear Sherrill Jamnmom,
The unforgettable American Pelecinid female uses her long, segmented abdomen to locate and parasitize the larval grubs of May Beetles.

American Pelecinid

Thank u Daniel! That was a quick response  and im pleased to know what she is!! I will do more research on  her too. You have me started! 🙂
Hugs!!

 

Letter 24 – American Pelecinid

 

Subject: Wasp?
Location: Central Michigan
July 27, 2012 10:33 pm
A quick survey brought some suggestions… one of which was an ichneumon wasp. Are we right? This guy landed of the window of our business after a nasty hail storm today in Six Lakes, Michigan.
Signature: Gina

American Pelecinid

Hi Gina,
Ichneumon Wasp is a good guess, but not correct.  This American Pelecinid is the only member of its family found in North America, and like the Ichneumon, it is a parasitic Hymenopteran.  The female uses her long abdomen to deposit eggs underground and the larvae feed upon the grubs of June Beetles.

Letter 25 – American Pelecinid

 

Subject: bugs
Location: broken bow, oklahoma
October 21, 2013 6:35 am
I found this bug outside my garage window. I trapped it in a glass bowl. After taking a photo I let it go. I have not been able to find out what it is and I was hoping you could.
Signature: Christian Tyler Short

American Pelecinid
American Pelecinid

Hi Christian,
This is a very excellent photo for identification purposes.  This is a female American Pelecinid, a parasitic wasp that pushes its long abdomen into the ground to lay eggs on the grubs of Scarab Beetles.  The beetle grub provides food for the developing American Pelecinid larva.

Letter 26 – American Pelecinid

 

Subject: Flying Scorpion? Panorpa nuptialis?
Location: Fort Collins, CO
August 22, 2014 2:30 pm
I found this yesterday in an old pot.
Live in Fort Collins, CO.
I am afraid I killed it, even though it bothered me to do so, but it looked somewhat dangerous!
Have never seen anything like this! A friend in Mexico sent me news of Panorpa nuptialis… “flying scorpion” but I am not sure it is enough similar…
Ideas?
Signature: mes

American Pelecinid
American Pelecinid

Dear mes,
This is an American Pelecinid,
Pelecinus polyturator, the only member of its family in the continental United States.  This parasitic wasp uses its long abdomen to deposit eggs underground in the proximity of Scarab Beetle Grubs which the larval wasps eat.  American Pelecinids are not known to sting, but whenever we write that an insect is harmless, or not aggressive, someone writes in to dispute us.  In our opinion, this beneficial insect was killed unnecessarily, and we are tagging the posting as Unnecessary Carnage and we hope that you will be understanding if you encounter another American Pelecinid.  This is most definitely not a Scorpionfly, which is how Panorpa nuptialis is classified.

THANK YOU for this post, and for the education.
I am generally not squeamish around insects (having lived 17 years of my adult life in Mexico) and I sincerely regret falling into the “ew” category with this American Pelecinid. I was feeling mother bear I think…
Thank you so much for the identification which I will post around to try to atone for having lost this one!
Thanks for the good work you do
Mes

Letter 27 – American Pelecinid

 

Subject: At lake george
Location: Lake george, NY
August 9, 2015 6:29 am
I saw this at lake george area. Does not look like a scorpionfly . Never seen these in pictures either
Signature: Rehan

American Pelecinid
American Pelecinid

Dear Rehan,
This is an American Pelecinid, a parasitic wasp that uses its long abdomen to lay eggs on or near subterranean Scarab Beetle Larvae which serve as food for the developing Pelecinid larva.

Letter 28 – American Pelecinid

 

Subject: Flying stinger bug
Location: Denver Colorado
August 18, 2017 12:31 pm
Hi what kind of bug is this??
Signature: Matt

American Pelecinid

Dear Matt,
Comments on American Pelecinid postings on our site are up this year, but your image of an American Pelecinid is the first submission we have received in quite some time of this harmless, parasitoid that preys upon the grubs of June Beetles.

Letter 29 – American Pelecinid

 

Subject:  American Pelicinid
Geographic location of the bug:  Piseco, New York (Adirondack Mtns)
Date: 08/10/2019
Time: 09:11 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Just thought I’d post a pic of am AP that land on my hat today. Very friendly—crawled up and down my arm, and investigated my pulled pork sandwich.
How you want your letter signed:  Dexter Ford

American Pelecinid

Dear Dexter,
Thanks for submitting your awesome image of an American Pelecinid.

Letter 30 – American Pelecinid in Canada

 

Subject :  Alien Bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Ottawa
Date: 08/09/2021
Time: 09:08 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Looks out of this world!
Scary too!
Can anyone identify?
About 2″ long I think
thx 🙂
How you want your letter signed:  UFO’s are real 😉

American Pelecinid

This is an American Pelecinid, a species of parasitic wasp that preys upon the larvae of June Beetles.  The female American Pelecinid inserts her long abdomen into the dirt when she locates a Scarab Beetle grub feeding underground.  The Wasp eggs hatches and the larval Wasp feeds on the Beetle grub.

American Pelecinid

Hi Daniel,
Wow! Never thought anyone was going to reply. Thanks for identifying. Ottawa is close to NY state – makes sense. Thought I found a rare bug! Well, TY and keep up the good work!
DC

Letter 31 – Pelecinid from Bolivia

 

Bug from Bolivia
January 10, 2010
Photo taken last week in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
A bunch of curious people!
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Pelecinid
Pelecinid

Dear bunch of curious people,
This is a member of the wasp relative in the family Pelecinidae.  There is a single North American species, Pelecinus polyturator, and according to BugGuide, it ranges as far south as Argentina.  This may be Pelecinus polyturator, or a closely related species.  Pelecinus polyturator is a parasitoid that preys upon the subterranean grubs of May Beetles.  Your photo depicts a female who uses her long jointed abdomen to deposit eggs beneath the surface of the soil when she locates a beetle grub that will provide food for one of her spawn.

Letter 32 – Pelecinid from Ecuador

 

Subject: Please can you help me to identify this?
Location: South América Ecuador Pichincha near LLoa “town”
August 12, 2015 9:54 pm
Hi thank you so much for reading this. I was wondering if you. can help me with this. I found this by a river in South América it was found in LLoa about 30 minutes from Quito the capital city of Ecuador. It was found on the. higlands at about 3000meters near the rainforest.
Signature: Ecuador identification

Pelecinid
Pelecinid

This is a Pelecinid, a parasitic wasp in the family Pelecinidae, and it is the first example we have ever received from outside North America.  According to BugGuide:  “One North American genus with only one species: Pelecinus polyturator Drury 1773. Worldwide, there is only one extant genus, Pelecinus, with three recognized species (Johnson and Musetti, 1999):
Pelecinus polyturator (North America, Central America, South America)
Pelecinus thoracicus (western Mexico)
Pelecinus dichrous (South America)
The family was much more diverse during the Mesozoic era (Beetles in the Bush).”
We are not certain which of the South American species your individual represents.  Pelecinids prey upon the subterranean larvae of Scarab Beetles, and the female uses her long, flexible abdomen to lay eggs underground in proximity to the Scarab larva.  Beetles in the Bush has a very nice posting on the genus with this information:  “
Pelecinus polyturator is the only North American member of the family Pelecinidae, which itself contains only two additional species that are restricted to Mexico and Central/South America. It wasn’t always this way—fossils assignable to the family and representing 43 species in a dozen genera have been found as far back as the early Cretaceous (121–124 mya) across North America, Europe, and Asia (Grimaldi & Engel 2005). Surely this represents just the tip of the iceberg of Mesozoic and early Cenozoic pelecinid diversity, making today’s three species the last representatives of a once great lineage—’living fossils’ some might say.”

Thank you so much for your answer!
I will definitely make a donation for you guys.
thank you again.

Letter 33 – American Pelenicid

 

Scorpion-tailed wasp thing?
My fiancee and I came across this interesting looking bug in Frozen Head State Park, which is in the town of Wartburg, Tennessee (eastern TN.) It didn’t move for quite a long time, though it was alive.

This amazing creature is an American Pelecinid. It is related to wasps, but does not sting. Your specimen is a female. She uses her long abdomen as an ovipositor to place eggs underground on beetle grubs. The larvae parasitize the grubs of June Beetles.

Letter 34 – American Pelicinid

 

Subject: Wasp with quite a tail!
Location: Waynesville, NC
August 24, 2017 6:35 am
Hey bug folks! I saw this cool wasp while enjoying the eclipse on the blue ridge parkway near Waynesville NC. I’ve never seen one with such an elaborate tail and figured you all could tell me more!
Signature: Thanks, Mike

American Pelicinid

Dear Mike,
This is an American Pelecinid,
Pelecinus polyturator, the only member of its family in North America, according to BugGuide where it states:  “One North American genus with only one species.”  We have gotten numerous comments submitted this year reporting sightings.  This is a female American Pelecinid.  The male has a much smaller abdomen.  The female uses her long abdomen to lay eggs underground where her young will parasitize Scarab Beetle Grubs.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts

126 thoughts on “Do American Pelecinid Wasp Sting?”

  1. OMG!! I live in Fargo, ND too and just saw this same bug on my window screen at about 6:30 pm tonight and was so freaked out by it. My husband sprayed it with Lysol and it flew away. I had no idea what kind of bug it was so I was searching on line and this site was so helpful. Thanks!!

    Reply
  2. I have to say, I’m happy this site exists and I now know what it is I pulled out of my hair today while driving in my car! I must admit I was screaming while doing so and believe I will have nightmares tonight, as you can see I am a wimp when it comes to bugs! What I would like to know is, are these bugs harmless and how long do they stick around? I’ve only just noticed them today…I live in Ottawa, ON Canada

    Reply
    • For the moment we are going to just speculate and not research. We hope your nightmares are not too severe because the American Pelecinid poses no threat to you. The female uses her long, jointed abdomen to locate the grubs of June Beetles underground and she lays an egg on or near each grub which subsequently gets eaten alive by the growing Pelecinid larva. A female Wasp that needs to locate living prey for each egg she lays usually lives long enough to lay six or seven eggs. If it is a very good year for prey, she may lay considerably more eggs. That really depends on the hunting. We are guessing, based on the duration of time that we are in receipt of letters requesting that we identify Stump Stabbers, Cicada Killers and Great Golden Digger Wasps, that female predatory, solitary wasps live up to six weeks. In a specific region, they have a limited time when they can be observed.

      Reply
  3. Thank you bugman, I appreciate the info and you have put my mind to rest! I wish now I would have taken a picture while it was sitting in the passenger seat of my car! I don’t think I will ever get over the feeling of pulling it out of my hair but at least I know they are not harmful. We did have many June beetles here this year, or so I thought but I really haven’t noticed them around for probably at least 3 weeks now. Is that an indication that these bugs will soon not have anything to reproduce with until next year?

    Reply
    • American Pelecinid females prey upon larval June Beetles. If there were many June Beetles this year, they probably produced many eggs and future grubs, too early for the American Pelecinid you discovered to take advantage of that bounty, however, there might be numerous grubs this year as well.

      Reply
  4. We saw one of these guys this evening, my husband spotted it and wondered what it was. I’ve seen them before, but never more than one or two in a season. Didn’t see one at all last year. They certainly can cause a commotion when people see them for the first time! Not that my husband is likely to freak over an insect, even if it is rather large, black and intimidating. He just asks me about it.
    Bugophile in Winnipeg

    Reply
  5. The reason I am here is one of these turned up in my back yard, September 21 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

    Pretty far north and pretty late in the year by the sounds of it.

    I certainly have never seen one before!

    Reply
  6. The reason I am here is one of these turned up in my back yard, September 21 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

    Pretty far north and pretty late in the year by the sounds of it.

    I certainly have never seen one before!

    Reply
  7. We found one of these while building our deck on the back of our home in Bremen Indiana. Kinda freaked they guys out who were building our deck…..Really funny to see a bunch of grown men freak out over such a small insect….However, it does look creepy and dangerous.

    Reply
  8. I just found one of these in Prince Edward Island, Canada tonight. It sure was creepy looking and coming too close to my infant son for my liking- so it was killed… Oooops!
    Glad to hear it’s not harmful to humans. I’ll know if I see one again.

    Reply
    • This is so interesting. I’ve been fascinated by insects my entire life and had never seen or heard of this one before.

      I was in PEI (Cavendish) this weekend also and saw one. Immediately searched the internet for classification and saw your comment.

      Reply
  9. I just found one of these in Prince Edward Island, Canada tonight. It sure was creepy looking and coming too close to my infant son for my liking- so it was killed… Oooops!
    Glad to hear it’s not harmful to humans. I’ll know if I see one again.

    Reply
    • This is so interesting. I’ve been fascinated by insects my entire life and had never seen or heard of this one before.

      I was in PEI (Cavendish) this weekend also and saw one. Immediately searched the internet for classification and saw your comment.

      Reply
  10. I wanted to be an entomologist when I was younger and I always laugh at people who are afraid of or disgusted by bugs … however; I was vacuuming my bedroom tonight and this horrific looking creature was writhing on the carpet arching its back and stabbing with its incredibly long and dangerous looking abdomen. This summer, we have been seeing some unusual insects for the Northeastern U.S. and this thing freaked me out. I thought this hellish creature looked like a winged scorpion and although my first temptation was to vacuum the damn thing up, I gave in to my scientific sensibilities, captured it and looked it up online. In my Google search, I used the keywords “scorpion, ant, wasp, spider, wings” and found it here on your site. Seeing as it kills June-bug larvae, I’m keeping it in my killing jar as a specimen. I kind of like June-bugs!

    Reply
  11. While watering my garden I noticed what I thought was a winged scorpion. I am afraid it met an untimely death. Since then I have found two more on my deck both joined their brethren. I guess knowing their usefulness (hate
    junebugs) I will be careful not to harm anymore.

    Reply
  12. While watering my garden I noticed what I thought was a winged scorpion. I am afraid it met an untimely death. Since then I have found two more on my deck both joined their brethren. I guess knowing their usefulness (hate
    junebugs) I will be careful not to harm anymore.

    Reply
  13. My daughter saw one land on her window & it freaked her out so I took a picture of it & found it on your site. We’re in New Brunswick, Canada

    Reply
  14. So this bug was flying around our house this morning and my mom and I decided to look it up and we found this page. Then I noticed the lady who asked the question about the bug was named Shelly and her daughters name was Jenna and ironically my name is Jenna and my moms name is Shelly! It was so funny finding the answer to our question like it was actually written to us! Lol thank you for the information!

    Reply
    • We saw one on the beach at lake Anisle, Cape Breton, then today I noticed one on my deck here in Sydney, NS. My husband wouldn’t let us kill it. Glad we didn’t, I hate June Bugs.

      Reply
  15. I just seen one a little while ago it was on it ground looked weird as he’ll but I grabbed little stick it let me stretch it’s tail out which it does looks like a stinger I checked it out for a couple of minutes I let be it’s a beautiful insect mane I came in the house went back outside on my phone and the same little insect landed on me. It has good energy about it..

    Reply
    • Yep, in Fredericton too, and seem to have quite a few under my apple tree… Never saw them before this summer and now have seen a bunch.

      Reply
  16. Dang I freaked out when I saw one on our flower put today. That tall loomed dripping with poison. . . Lol gotta so watching scary movies. Denver CO

    Reply
  17. The reason I Google this is I found one in Minneapolis Minnesota and it creeped me out but luckily I let it live. At first I thought it was just a dragonfly and then I saw it still curl up like a scorpion …creepy. at least they didn’t scream like the guys

    Reply
  18. I have seen around a dozen of these around the yard here in Gagetown New Brunswick … Never saw one before … Google sent me here too !
    Looks like a black scorpion tailed mini-dragonfly / wasp !

    Reply
  19. I have seen around a dozen of these around the yard here in Gagetown New Brunswick … Never saw one before … Google sent me here too !
    Looks like a black scorpion tailed mini-dragonfly / wasp !

    Reply
  20. They are plentiful here in Halifax, Nova Scotia this year. First time we’ve seen them was a couple months ago and now as summer progresses we see a few everyday in our yard.

    Reply
    • The female lays her eggs where they will hatch near May Beetle grubs that are living below the surface of the soil. During years when prey is plentiful, populations of predators also increase.

      Reply
  21. Hi. Just saw one of these here in DC this lovely September evening. The tail was straight as it only alighted for a moment to get it description so I could post this comment and it was off again..Since my kids have grown out of toddlerhood, I have enjoyed gardening and finding so many new bugs to peak my curiosity has me doing a lot of searches. Thanks for your site!

    Reply
  22. My friend had one of these on her windshield we live in Presque Isle Maine it was seen on September 7 the 2016 have they been seen in this area before & are they poisonous & do they bite or sting ?

    Reply
  23. This morning got one like this on my car (Montreal, Quebec), at first it was kind of creepy and scary, my 3 yrs old son was really amazed by it so we just let fly away.

    Reply
  24. Just saw one on my car windshield in North Carolina. Creeped me out I just froze googled it then looked up and it was gone. Never seen one before and I’m out in the country I’ve seen all types but nothing like this ?

    Reply
  25. We’ve been seeing these for the first time ever in the London, Ontario (Canada) area. I say for the first time because I’m 63 years old and have never seen anything like them. My daughter just removed and set free, one that was hanging out on my wall and we have seen one at her place, too. Beyond creepy! We didn’t know if that scorpion tail would sting us or not, so glad to know it’s not after humans. And it is very welcome to eat our grubs. 🙂

    Reply
  26. We found one on our dining window in National City MI. Did a search for dragon fly with scorpion tale and was directed here. Great to know it eats junebug larva… can’t stand those Beatles lol. Thanks Bugman for the info. This lil guy is safe here today.

    Reply
  27. Northern Indiana…..Just saw one of these for the first time in my 50 years on this earth. It’s a creepy looking wasp but aren’t they all? Anyways, it’s good to see something different in the area I live.

    Reply
  28. I just saw one on the side of my garage, next to the door when I was bringing our puppy back inside. I freaked out and grabbed him because he loves to eat bugs ?. I have seen some pretty creepy bugs in our area lately, but this one definitely takes the cake. (Near Pittsburgh, PA.)
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  29. I just saw one on the side of my garage, next to the door when I was bringing our puppy back inside. I freaked out and grabbed him because he loves to eat bugs ?. I have seen some pretty creepy bugs in our area lately, but this one definitely takes the cake. (Near Pittsburgh, PA.)
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  30. Interior camping in East side of Algonquin Park on Sec Lake last weekend. Found one of these guys, and like many before me, I stepped on it and now feel terrible. Glad I researched it so I know for the future.

    Reply
  31. found one Winnipeg Manitoba sitting on the box of my truck caught it and searched for it and was sent to your site question it bite by one what would happen

    Reply
  32. We have a lot of these in PEI. I watched one today carrying long pieces of dried grass on strand at a time and pulling it up under my outside windowsill, I’m assuming it was making a nest.

    Reply
  33. Saw one on my JD Tractor windshield while working in the bush just outside Rockland, Ontario. It did freak me out so I had to find out if it was dangerous…glad to hear that it’s not after humans. Sept 2, 2017

    Reply
  34. We found one , well, it was a large and skinny insect, on a ferry going to Vinalhaven, Maine. Is the American Pelecinid large?

    Reply
  35. I have a Light greenish/light yellow version. It has butterfly wings, (fairly small on each sholder) There are 2 wings.and it had 3 stingers and 3 eyes inbetween its eyes. If you can´t figure it out, ill send it to a lab.

    Reply
  36. Thank goodness.
    I couldn’t find nemotodes anywhere and had major grub issues in my backyard.
    Would like to know if these pose a threat to any vegetation I might be growing.
    In particular, cucumber, tomato, peppers etc.
    Looking forward to feedback,
    As it stands now it looks as though this insect is a true blessing!!!!

    Reply
  37. Thank goodness.
    I couldn’t find nemotodes anywhere and had major grub issues in my backyard.
    Would like to know if these pose a threat to any vegetation I might be growing.
    In particular, cucumber, tomato, peppers etc.
    Looking forward to feedback,
    As it stands now it looks as though this insect is a true blessing!!!!

    Reply
  38. Had one try to hitch a ride on my soda can while we were out boating on a lake just north of Duluth, MN. Very interesting insect. Looked menacing, but it flew off when I shooed it away.

    Reply
  39. Saw one today in the evening sunlight cleaning itself on an orange kayak, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. It’s body and parts of its legs looked an iridescent blue in the sunlight and it was absolutely the most beautiful “wasp” I have ever seen. I got to watch it clean itself for a good 3 minutes… awesome. Not so awesome are the grubs I have in the lawn.

    Reply
    • I had one in my yard after the hurricane, I always look to see what different type of species show up after a storm like that. creepy looking. Can you tell me are they a pest to be concerned about that may destroy grass or plants.

      Reply
  40. Found this bug in the yard this morning. The first I have ever seen in my 80 odd years on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Did not kill it and took a picture of it to find out what it is. Glad to know that it is not dangerous. August 21/19

    Reply
  41. Just saw one here in Saginaw, Michigan flying on our porch while a storm rolled in. It’s still alive and doing what it’s supposed to do.

    Reply
  42. found one in my small animal water (outside dish for grounded animals) picked it up and carried it around thinking it was dead. about a half hour later it got up and left. have seen another one in the grass (which now i know why), i won’t kill anything on purpose, but glad to know more about them. just like mud wasps, bit creepy but glad i found out more on them. kitchener, ontario, canada

    Reply
  43. Worthington, MN. Dawn on a warm, muggy morning after a day of rain. It landed next to me while I was working on my patio picnic table. Walked slowly around. Got lots of iPhone pics of it from a couple inches away. Short lifespan, evidently. When you mash them with a notebook. Oops.

    Reply
  44. Have seen two (or maybe one twice) in Detroit Lakes, MN. Sure glad we don’t have to continue to be freaked out by them.

    Reply
  45. This is my first ever sighting of this insect anywhere, which happened in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada today.
    From what I could gather, they are a parasitic wasp of June Beetle grubs, which are abundant here. Although, we’ve also had some a recent new pest in the last few years called the Japanese Emerald Beetle which are currently coming out to mate and feed on various vines and deciduous trees but only endemic.
    My question for the experts is if this Parasitic Wasp also able to go after the Japanese Beetle grubs?
    Thanks for any info.

    Reply
    • I’d be interested to know too. I see these in both Nova Scotia, and in Hawaii. There are no June bugs here in Hawaii, so what are they preying on?

      Reply
  46. We had never seen these before, but found 2 this week on our deck. Creeped me out, but I don’t automatically kill bugs, so looked it up and got to this site. Glad to find it’s not harmful to humans and that they are after June bug grubs! Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  47. I’ve seen them a few times now the last few days. First time I ever seen these weird black bugs on L’Ile-du-Grand-calumet, Quebec, Canada. I’ GLAD I found this item.

    Reply
  48. Found one on my screen today and it was frightening. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I started looking on the internet and was able to identify it from my photo. I’m glad I got a picture before it flew away.

    Reply
  49. One landed on my golf clubs today in Richmond, Ontario. First time I have ever seen one. Wondered if it was a dragonfly but the wings were small and the tail was so unusual.

    Reply
  50. I just found this website by looking up “insect with a scorpion-like tail.” It’s definitely a pelecinid, seen in Montreal, QC, just now.

    Reply
  51. Pretty sure I’ve seen this in my flower garden recently, but it is a beautiful blue color. Have seen one twice now, are some of them blue? Mulvane, Kansas

    Reply

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