Great Black Wasps: Do They Sting?

Wasps are indeed a scary sight and are notorious for their intensely painful stings. But do all species sting? Do great black wasps sting, for instance? Let’s figure it out.

Infamous for their painful stings, wasps are naturally quite scary. If you find a new species of wasp buzzing around in your garden, it’s important to find out if it’s dangerous.

If you have seen a rather giant-looking black-colored wasp in your garden, you might be wondering whether it can sting you.

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Well, while this is the great black wasp, and yes, its does sting. Thankfully, you aren’t very likely to get stung by it. Let’s figure out if you need to get rid of great black wasps from your garden and if there might be a reason why you would want to keep them.

Do Great Black Wasps Sting? Explained


What Does a Great Black Wasp Look Like?

They are quite large, much bigger than other similar wasps. The adult wasps of this species range from 0.8 to 1.1 inches in length, and the females can be as large as 1.5 inches.

The matte black body of this wasp has a satiny touch to it. Despite its smoky black color, its wings are iridescent with blue color and remain folded along its back.

The area between the abdomen and the thorax has a narrow constriction (thread waist). This wasp features long, spiny legs and large, sickle-shaped mandibles.

All in all, the great black wasp can look quite scary, and we’re not surprised you rushed to check out what you are dealing with! So let’s come directly to why you are on this page.

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Does it Sting?

Yes, these wasps sting. However, only a female can sting you; the males don’t have stingers.

Their sting is quite painful and can lead to swelling, and it can take several days to recuperate. Thankfully, the chances of getting stung by one of them are low.

This is because these wasps are solitary; they don’t live in groups. Unlike social wasps, they do not have a colony to defend and are, therefore, less aggressive.

However, a female wasp would still sting you if you get too close to its nest.

Do Great Black Wasps Sting? Explained

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Is the Sting Poisonous or Venomous?

The sting of a great black wasp contains a paralytic venom that it uses to incapacitate its prey for eating. Moreover, this is a parasitoid wasp that lays eggs in the body of a host insect.

The paralytic venom takes away the host’s ability to fight back, get rid of the eggs, or escape without killing it.

While the venom in the sting isn’t as effective against humans and won’t paralyze you, the stings are truly painful.

You’ll need medications to control the swelling and the pain, and there’s a chance that it might trigger an allergic reaction.

Why does it sting?

The female wasp primarily uses its sting to lay eggs in the body of a host insect. They sting their prey thrice, injecting them with paralytic venom.

This prevents the host from fighting back or escaping while still keeping it fresh and alive for the wasp larvae that would hatch from the eggs.

The females then lay eggs under the prey or sometimes directly on its stomach. They carry it back to their nest.

When the larvae hatch, they have a ready snack to get started. They feed on it until they grow big enough, all the while keeping the vital organs alive till the end.

But don’t be scared if you get stung. You don’t have to worry about one of these wasps paralyzing you to lay its eggs.

In the case of humans, black wasp stings are mostly for self-defense. The wasp will sting you if you seem to be a threat.

Do Great Black Wasps Sting? Explained


Are Great Black Wasps Dangerous?

Unless you are allergic to insect stings, the wasp’s sting would only result in pain, swelling, and itching. While the pain can be torturous, you don’t have to worry about long-term effects or diseases.

Is the Great Black Wasp Aggressive?

Fortunately, these large wasps aren’t very aggressive. They usually keep to themselves unless you disturb them.

The common notion about wasps being aggressive insects isn’t wrong – the social wasps defend their turf quite aggressively.

However, the great black wasps are digger wasps that don’t have a colony and live in underground nests. They don’t have anything to defend.

Can a Great Black Wasp Kill You?

Don’t worry; the venom of a great black wasp isn’t fatal to humans. However, if you are allergic to the sting, you may have to take an antihistamine and seek immediate medical attention.

What Should You Do If One Stings You?

Getting stung by a great black wasp can cause itching, burning, sharp pain, swelling, and redness. You may experience additional symptoms like vomiting and nausea if you’re allergic to insect stings.

As long as the symptoms are mild or moderate, you may follow the steps below and self-medicate:

  • Step 1: First, remove the venom using soap and water to wash the wound.
  • Step 2: If the wound is swollen, you can apply some ice to control the swelling.
  • Step 3: Once the wound is dry and clean, bandage it. You may apply some hydrocortisone to the wound before bandaging to help heal the wound faster.
  • Step 4: You can take over-the-counter medications like Benadryl, Zyrtec, Motrin, or Aleve orally.

If the sting triggers an allergic reaction, you may need to take an antihistamine medication to control the itching and apply ointments or baking soda paste.

If the symptoms are too powerful or the swelling isn’t gone in two to three days, you need to see a doctor.

Are These Wasps Beneficial?

Despite their painful stings, great black wasps are a beneficial insect species. They prey on pests like cicadas, grasshoppers, and katydids that damage garden plants and crops.

Frequently asked questions

What happens if you get stung by a black wasp?

Getting stung by these wasps usually results in pain, swelling, and itching. While the great black wasp’s pain index is not as high as other wasp species, it can still cause excruciating pain. It can also trigger allergic reactions if you are allergic to stings.

What attracts great black wasps?

The adult great black wasp is attracted to gardens or other places with plenty of flowers, as they primarily feed on pollen and nectar.

Lavender is particularly attractive to wasps, so don’t be surprised if you find them around your lavender plants.

Do Great Black Wasps Sting? Explained


What wasp has the most painful sting?

Several species of wasps are infamous for having very painful stings in the world. These include the tarantula hawk wasp, the paper wasp, the soldier wasp, and yellow jackets.

As per the Schmidt pain index, the honey wasp’s sting is the worst. Getting stung by one of these wasps can be far more painful than a great black wasp sting.

What kills black wasps instantly?

You can mix a teaspoon of dish soap in two cups of water and spray it on the wasps or their underground nests. Alternatively, you may also use wasp sprays, electric swatters, or vacuum cleaners.

However, it’s advisable not to kill great black wasps as long as it’s avoidable, as it is a beneficial insect that can help control the pest population in your garden.

Wrapping up

Well, now you know that having this cicada killer in your garden isn’t a bad thing as they help protect your garden from harmful pests.

If possible, just leave them be and don’t bother them. However, if you are allergic to stings or simply don’t want them around at all, you can spray them with soapy water or contact pest control.

I hope reading this article has helped remove your fears about getting stung by these wasps.

Reader Emails

If a huge wasp is sitting in your garden, It is natural to check whether it stings or not. Many of readers have had the same query in the past, and we were able to resolve them.

Read more about the experiences of our readers with the great black wasp in the past.

Letter 1 – Great Black Wasp

Big Blue Flying Insect
August 17, 2009
These bugs are living in a stone wall where I work in Rhinebeck, NY (it is summer right now). They fly out and bring back grasshoppers that seem to be paralyzed when they bring them back to the wall. They disappear with them in the wall and then a few days or weeks later (not sure) they drop the shell of the grasshopper out of the wall-like the entire inside has been eaten out.aaaaaaaa
Teresa B
Rhinebeck, NY

Blue Mud Wasp
Great Black Wasp

Dear Teresa,
This is one of two species of Thread Waist Wasps that we have trouble distinguishing from one another.  We believe it is a Blue Mud Wasp, Chalybion californicum, which according to BugGuide is :  “A large, active, blue-black wasp with irridescent blue wings. Frequents flowers for nectar and buildings for nest sites. Compare “Steel-Blue Cricket Hunter”, (or “Blue Mud Dauber”), Chlorion aerarium, which preys on crickets. This is about the same size as Chalybion, and is said to have a longer pedicel (narrow waist between thorax and abdomen). The body of Chalybion looks much more hairy, and more steely-blue, based on specimen photos.”  The other possibility is that it is Chlorion aerarium, also depicted on BugGuide. which states:  “Habitat  Although generally not closely associated with humans, they are found wherever their hosts (Gryllus crickets) are found, which could include close proximity to homes (though not so much as Sceliphron and Chalybion). Chlorion is usually found in open areas such as meadows, overgrown fields, dunes, beach edges, etc., although they may not necessarily hunt in the same habitat as they nest. They are sometimes associated with the Cicada Killer where the ranges of these two wasps overlap, C. aerarium digging burrows off side of the larger wasps nest (O’Brien, 1989).
Season  Late July and early August (in Michigan)
Remarks  Females mass-provision several serial cells, each containing from 2 to 9 nymphs or adults of Gryllus pennsylvanicus. Prey are transported on the ground, venter-up, with the wasp’s mandibles grasping the antennae of the cricket.
”  It is worth noting that the adults of both species feed on nectar and pollen, and the crickets are used as food for the brood.  We will contact Eric Eaton to see if he can provide the exact identification.

Blue Mud Wasp

Ok, here are all the identifications:
The “blue mud dauber” or “Chlorion” is neither.  These are two nice images of a female “great black wasp,” Sphex pensylvanicus.  They hunt katydids as food for their larval offspring, as the submitter observed.
Keep up the great work!

Letter 2 – Great Black Wasp on Milkweed

Subject: What is that bug drinking from my milkweed plants?
Location: Massachusetts
August 12, 2017 5:25 pm
I saw a few of these very dark large wasp-like fliers feeding from my common milkweed plants today. Coastal Massachusetts. Very quick flier. Hard to get close to. Thanks!!!
Rob S.
Signature: Rob

Great Black Wasp

Hi Rob,
This is a Great Black Wasp and this image is gorgeous.  Female Great Black Wasps hunt Katydids to provision an underground nest where the larval wasps are developing.  The Great Black Wasp, 
Sphex pensylvanicus, and the Great Golden Digger Wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus, are classified together in the same genus.   This submission and your previous two postings are all being archived on our Milkweed Meadow tag.


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47 thoughts on “Great Black Wasps: Do They Sting?”

  1. I have a question please. One of these great black wasps comes on to our patio and attracts the attention of our Maine Coon cat, who loves to catch bugs, will it hurt him if he eats it?

    • We have not found any information about the North American Great Black Wasp being introduced to Australia. Most likely you observed a more local species like this Australian Black Flower Wasp pictured on FlickR or perhaps a Blue Flower Wasp.

  2. I have found 6 of these in the last month. In only one room of the house. I am in South Texas. Looks like the Great Black Wasp. Doors stay closed. AC on all the time. Where are they coming from.

    • I know this reply is years to late but just wanted to throw it in. I had a stray wasp in my living room now and then and I have multiple cats that I was worried about getting stung. Had no idea where they were coming from but then I saw that the only explanation was my cathedral ceiling fan mount, in which the attachment box was directly in attic access. I filled it with expand foam and so far no more wasps.

    • Like other insects, Great Black Wasps mate and reproduce. Female Great Black Wasps have a stinger, but they are not considered dangerous nor aggressive.

  3. I have found a nest i cant tell how many of them . Do they sting humand or dogs can they be harmfull . They are great looking insect i would not want to get rid of them .

  4. So they eat caterpillars? I have one that frequents my butterfly garden but haven’t seen many caterpillars or butterflies. I was wondering if this could be the cause?

    • They do not eat Caterpillars. Great Black Wasps take nectar from flowers and according to BugGuide the female Great Black Wasp “Provision nests (in burrow in soft earth) with Katydids or grasshoppers” for her young. Another name for the Great Black Wasp is Katydid Hunter according to BugGuide.

  5. We have 3 new nest areas of these wasps close to our main entryway. Never had them or seen them before this summer. Should we just leave them? Will they disappear over winter or come back next year. I understand they’re not aggressive and don’t tend to bite, but they are big and annoying. What to do?

    • If conditions remain favorable, multiple generations of solitary wasps may continue to nest in the same areas in consecutive years. Our opinion is that you should learn to live in peaceful harmony with this magnificent creatures.

  6. While I appreciate your response to Rod, I have a problem which is similar but perhaps more annoying. These Great Black Wasps have decided this year to populate the sand fill surrounding our pool with some 20 nests. These are located under the wooden walk-around all around the pool making the nests well protected and non-accessible except for the wasps. Despite assurances that these insects are non-aggresive they scare all those using the pool. In past years we have had a nest or two of these wasps and the odd bumble bee nest, all of which we were able to live in harmony with but nothing like the swarms this year. My concern is that next year there will be even more. How can I prevent the invasion? Do the adult queens hibernate in the winter and if so where; I assume they do not hibernate underground? I intend to lesve things as is this summer but any suggestions regarding next year would be apprecited.

    • They do not hibernate. The female lives for one season and each year produces a new generation. Perhaps the large population this year is tied to a large population of Katydids.

  7. I have a large amount flying around our two trees and Hibiscus during the heat of the day only. Are they attracted to the Hibiscus?

  8. Western NC: Hav noticed what appears to b these bees AND have noticed stink bug (BMSB) infestation on notable decline this year. Is there a relationship, n do these bees eat bmsb? THAT wud make me a happy camper!

  9. we just found loads of em on our landing and mme and my friend got really scared all we want to know is if they sting please help cuz im really scared

  10. We had a lot of these black wasps show up last summer. And just yesterday my grandson got stung 3 times (2 on stomach 1 on hand) after sliding on his stomach down the slide. While I appreciate their beauty I can not have them around. My granddaughter is highly allergic to bee and wasp stings and as we found out yesterday so is my grandson.
    So they have to go. My question is how do you find the nest? What does it look like from topside? We thought about putting granular sulphur out in the yard. To keep their “food” away. Will this work? Any suggestions?

  11. I’ve seen a number (less than a dozen) of black wasps that started showing up last summer/fall, appearing most often in our guest bathroom however I’m now starting to see them in the master bedroom and bath as well. We’ve had 5 in the last 2 days. The one that I killed and hour ago caught my attention because of the loud buzzing it made while flying around. I’ve read about the great black wasp so I wonder if that is the only type of black wasp. The wasps that I have killed do not appear to have a stinger on them and aren’t very large and they also don’t to appear to be aggressive however a wasp is frightening so I go after them with a flyswatter. I’m not sure where they’re coming in but I’ve read on different sites they have plenty of ways to get in your house. I just don’t know why I’m seeing them now after living in this house for 18 years.

  12. Let me add that we live in north central Texas and that I’ve also noticed a large increase in red wasps all around the outside of our house in the last two years.

  13. I seen this bug today (N.Wisconsin) It was teasing a spider web with its front feet, shaking it, until the spider ran up to investigate and it snatched up the little spider flew on a nearby plant and began munching on it, then flew away with it !

  14. I was carpet cleaning with my dad and I saw one and it scared me to see it had a dragon fly like not moving and it was dragging it so I looked it up and couldn’t find anything could it be using a new host other than a cricket

  15. I have seen one of these wasps with a white stripe across it,s back. is this the same kind of wasp or is this something different ? Thank you…….

  16. Is there a way to kill these? I have 20 of them flying around living in my concrete patio my daughter is 2. These things are 2 to 3 inches long

  17. Would they eat tomato hornworms? I have them for the first time this year.. Lots of Giant wasps in my flowers. I wish they would move to the garden! I try to keep organic.

  18. I live in Ontario Canada and I have just found a whole horde of these things flying around my back yard. I am surrounded by trees and bushes and all kinds of shrubs. I am 51 years old and I can honestly say that I have never seen these before. I had to google ” big blue flying bug with wasp legs” to find this. They kind of live in behind my hydro metre. What can I do??

    • Most things can get into a home. Great Black Wasps do not seek shelter indoors. They are an outdoor species that might accidentally get into a house.

  19. I was stung by one of these blue winged wasps on my forearm a few years ago. I still have the lingering effects from that sting. It swelled up my arm, got really hot. Then a few days went away. But every no and then the area that was stung itches so bad i could scratch my skin off. It last a few hours to a day and stops. Then I’m fine for awhile and then it stsrts up again. This last time it flared up I scratched so hard I bled as I was scratching from wrist to elbow topside only. Then a rash appeared toward my fingers up my arm to just below shoulder. So now entire arm itches. But again only topside. It has now been 3 weeks of this on and off daily itching, stinging, hurting on fire arm. I am going to the ER because no amout of ointment helps. The benadryl pill only puts me to sleep. It does stop the itching for about an hour. But the pain and itch can wake me out of a dead sleep. So don’t tell me that little #%$*@ doesnt sting or bite. And it lasts years.

  20. Hello: I would like to ask as I have these nesting at my back door every year. This is Canada not the USA. Any ways question is to they sting and what does a sting look like

  21. We have at least 20 of these on our Hummingbird Summer Sweet plants every day & was curious what they were when I came across this post.


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