Preventing Wasps from Invading Your Wood Deck and Fence

Worried about wasps in your wood deck? Wood wasps can cause major damage to wooden furniture. Here’s how to keep wasps away from wood deck and fences. If you have any concerns, its best to call a professional right away before too much damage is done.

When lounging on your pool deck or enjoying your time there with friends, having a wasp buzzing around is one of the last things you need. 

Besides the fact that such a situation can ruin the mood by causing fear and anxiety, it can also be quite dangerous if there’s a wasp nest close by. 

Unfortunately, wasps are heavily attracted to wooden surfaces like wood decks and fences.

There are a variety of preventive measures, like decoy wasp nests and repellents, that you can use to keep them away.

How To Keep Wasps Away From Wood Deck And Fence

What Kind of Wasps are Attracted To Wood?

A vast range of wasp species is attracted to wooden objects and surfaces, usually for nesting. Like female carpenter bees, wood wasps also bore deep holes into wood using their ovipositor and lay eggs inside. 

The term “wood wasps” refers to a variety of wasps that begin and end their life cycles in wood. Although they usually prefer decaying trees, damaged wood decks and fences attract them too.

Social wasps that build nests for their colonies, such as yellow jackets and paper wasps, are attracted to wood as well. 

If you have ever examined a wasp nest up close, you may notice the material is somewhat similar to paper. This is because the wasps build them using pulp made from wood dust. 

These wasps use their claws to scrape wood from wood decks, fences, and dead trees. They then chew the scraped wood into pulp and use it to build the nest.

How can you keep them away from your wood fence and deck?

If your wood deck or fence is attracting a lot of wasps lately, here are a few remedies that you can try to keep them away:

Wood Wasp: Urocerus albicornis

Coat and seal the wood properly

Firstly, wasps attack weathered and exposed wood surfaces that would be easy to dig into. 

One of the most practical ways to keep them away is to give the wood a coat of paint and seal it with a stain or wood sealant

This will deny the wasps a suitable wooden surface to attack. 

Although this method is relatively more expensive, it’s a good idea since you should keep your deck and fence properly sealed anyway. 

Exposed wood is highly prone to moisture and weather elements and might start rotting.

Hang up a decoy wasp nest

This is a clever way to prevent wasps from building nests around your home, let alone digging your deck for materials. 

Remember, wasps are territorial and usually don’t build nests near another colony. By hanging up fake wasp nests around your deck or fence, you can trick them into thinking that there’s already a wasp colony living there. 

This will cause them to fly away elsewhere to find a place to build their nest or forage for food. 

Most wasps do not prefer to build their nests around those of other wasps because it leads to competition for resources.

However, a major drawback of this method is that it wouldn’t be of much help in case the wasps have already built active nests on or near your property.

 

Use an essential oil spray

If you aren’t a fan of using chemical pest repellants, you could instead use a natural spray made from essential oils. 

As you might know, essential oils are great for keeping away a variety of insects. Now, spray this solution over your deck, fence, and porch. Alternatively, you may also use a natural and eco-friendly pest repellant that has peppermint oil in it.

Avoid swatting them

When you encounter a wasp on your property, your first instinct might be to grab something and swat the wasp with it. 

This isn’t advisable, as you may end up attracting more wasps this way. 

When you kill wasps or even attack them, they release pheromones to alert other wasps in the area about the threat. 

The pheromones also act as a signal for an attack on their nests, which means others from their colony might come in aggressively.

Wood Wasp

Add plants that repel wasps

This is a solution that will help you keep away wasps while improving the aesthetics of your deck area. 

Plants like thyme, spearmint, citronella, and lemongrass repel various insects, including wasps. 

Adding these plants to your deck will act as a long-term solution against wasps. You may also plant eucalyptus trees in your garden for similar results. 

Since it’s quite easy to care for these plants, this is a viable option for most people.

Use a commercial wasp spray

If the wasps have built a nest on your property, you can use a commercial wasp spray to clear it out by killing them. 

Identify the entrance of the nest and unload the wasp spray into it. This usually kills their queen and, consequently, the rest of the colony. 

However, be very careful while doing this – wasps defend their nests aggressively, and even a single wasp sting can be very painful. 

It’s best to spray a wasp nest at night, as wasps are active mostly during the day.

Call in a professional

If you are dealing with a large colony of wasps and it’s too dangerous to clear out the nests by yourself, contact pest control specialists instead. 

They use professional-grade products and equipment for a thorough and safe wasp treatment. Besides getting rid of the wasp nests, they can also treat your property with the necessary repellants.

Install an ultrasonic pest Repeller

If the wasps keep invading your pool deck frequently, you may consider investing in an ultrasonic pest Repeller

These devices emit ultrasonic waves that are detectable to insects but not humans. Besides wasps, an ultrasonic pest Repeller can also keep away mosquitoes, spiders, cockroaches, and even rodents.  

However, avoid using one of these if you have pets at home. They might be able to detect the waves, which can make them uncomfortable.

Wood Wasp

Enclose the deck with insect netting

You can also keep wasps out of your wood deck by using insect netting to enclose the area. 

Home improvements and gardening stores sell large insect nets and tents that you can use for this. 

Although this depends on the size of your deck area, generally, you should be able to cover the whole perimeter with the netting.

Don’t leave your trash accessible to wasps

Although this doesn’t relate directly to the wasps’ attraction to wooden structures, storing your trash securely will help reduce wasp visits. 

After all, trash bins are usually smelly and might attract wasps looking for food. This can eventually lead them to your wood deck or fence too. 

If you need to leave the trash can outdoors, keep the lid tightly sealed and place it away from your deck, preferably on the opposite side of your home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you put on wood to keep wasps away?

To keep wasps away from wooden decks and fences, you can spray the wood with essential oils diluted with water. 
Eco-friendly wasp repellants work too. If the underside of the wood is accessible, you can rub a bath soap against it to repel wasps.

How do I keep wasps away from my fence?

Treating your fence with peppermint oil or a mix of essential oils will help deter wasps from coming close. 

Since your fence stays exposed to weather elements all the time, it’s also recommended to coat it with a sealant. 

This will not only protect it against heat and moisture but will also make the fence unattractive to wasps.

How do I get rid of wasps flying around my deck?

Spraying wasps flying around your deck with soapy water can kill them instantly. 
You may also use natural wasp repellants or install an ultrasonic pest repellent to keep them away. Adding plants that repel wasps naturally can help too.
If the wasps are here for the first time, it might mean they are scouting for a location for their nest. In this case, a decoy nest will do the trick.

Why are wasps attracted to my wood fence?

Wasps are attracted to your wood fence because it provides them with a crucial material for building their nests – wood pulp. 
They scrape off wood particles and chew them into pulp. In case you find a solitary wasp digging into the fence, it’s usually a wood wasp making a hole to lay eggs in.

Wrap Up

By now, you can see that there are plenty of ways to deal with wasps. Like bee traps, you can also use homemade wasp traps if you want to get rid of wasps without killing them.  

Thanks for reading, and we hope you can now figure out the best way to repel or eliminate wasps attracted to your fence or deck.

Reader Emails

Wood wasps can be a major problem in places that have outdoor fences and decks.

Some of our readers have shared how these bugs have created holes in their outdoor wooden structures.

Please read and understand how these wasps can damage your wooden items

Letter 1 – Horntail Wood Wasp

 

That’s this bug?
I live near Regina, Saskatchewan Canada. When I had this bug land on me it scared the crap out of me! I searched your site but did not find anything that resembles this one. I have never seen a bug like this before in this area. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks
Mark

Hi Mark,
This female Horntail Wood Wasp, Urocerus gigas, cannot sting. Though it appears she has a stinger, it is really an ovipositor for laying eggs in dead and dying trees where the larvae bore into the wood.

Letter 2 – Female Horntail Woodwasp

 

Wasp???
Can you help me identify this wasp?? I came across this 2 years ago in July at Lake Edison, which is located in the Sierra’s in California. It was about 2 1/5 inches big…. maybe a little larger then that even. (Embedded image moved to file: pic18023.jpg)
Denna Myers

Hi Denna,
This is a female Horntail Woodwasp, Urocerus gigas. She uses the ovipositor, that appears to be a stinger, to deposit eggs deep in dead and dying wood.

Letter 3 – Horntail

 

a wood wasp?
maybe i’m not doing a very good search, but all the photos i’ve found of wood wasps don’t look like this one. which kind of wood wasp is it exactly? it was found in our starter log pile while we were camping outside of newport, oregon this past weekend (9/10). it looked like it was searching for someplace to lay eggs. very exciting to see!
annie

Hi Annie,
Horntails in the family Siricidae are often called Wood Wasps. We believe this is Urocerus californicus, and we will check with a real expert Eric Eaton. We are relatively certain Eric will be excited to see your photo. Eric Eaton responded: “You are correct on both counts. I don’t recognize the scoliids to species, and actually don’t know of any specialists on that family, either. We’d love to have both the images in Bugguide, too, as we are low on Urocerus images, and I don’t think that particular scoliid is as yet represented there. Eric”

Letter 4 – Horntail

 

What is this??
I live in western Washington about 45 miles from Canada and caught this insect at work flying around the construction site. I really don’t know what it is. I thought it might be some type of ichneumon. I have only seen this insect at work and nowhere else. One of my friends collect insects so I was going to as him but he’s not around right now. Any info would be great. Thanks,
Josh

Hi Josh,
This is a species of Horntail commonly called a Wood Wasp in the genus Urocerus. Now you can impress your friend when he returns. Update: Eric Eaton just provided us with the following species correction. “First, that female horntail wasp is a grand specimen of Urocerus californicus, not U. gigas. I’d love to have the specimen if the person can’t find the other interested party:-) I never saw one alive when I lived in Oregon, though they are apparently not uncommon….”

Letter 5 – Female Horntail Wood Wasp

 

unknown buggs
was hoping that you might be able to tell us what type of bug this is , it was photographed this summer in Atlin BC Canada and so far we have not been able to find anyone up here that can make an identification.
Thank you
John and Tracy Mackenzie
Whitehorse Yukon Canada

Hi John and Tracy,
What a great photo of a female Horntail Wood Wasp, Urocerus gigas flavicornis. She lays eggs in dead and dying trees with that fierce looking ovipositor.

Letter 6 – Colorado Pigeon Horntail

 

Wasp??
Dear Bugman,
You have a great site. Wish I had found it years ago… I live in eastern Colorado and have never seen wasps like this before. I found two, very large wasps(?) on the ground at the base of a dead tree. One flew off, slowly circled and landed on the same tree and began crawling down, dragging and jabbing it’s “tail/stinger” along the bark. Is it laying eggs? Searching out insects? The other wasp was dead- It has a body length of 1 3/8″ (it was the smaller of the two wasps) with 1/4″ antenna and tail/stinger. It has the yellow and black stripes on its abdomen. It doesn’t have the common thin wasp waist. I hope you can tell me what these are? It was great fun to watch and photograph. Thank you so much for your time and attention,
CC

Hi CC,
This is a Horntail in the Family Siricidae. The most commonly depicted species is the Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, but your specimen is marked differently. We are relatively sure it is the genus Tremex, but are unsure of the species. Horntails are related to wasps but do not sting. That stinger-like ovipositor is used to deposit eggs under bark so the wood boring larvae will have a food source.


Ed. Note: We later contacted Eric Eaton who wrote back: “It IS Tremex columba. The book “Bagging Big Bugs” lists it for the Rocky Mountain states, and the image in there matches yours perfectly. “

Letter 7 – Horntail

 

Mystery Bug
Hello,
This bug drilled a perfect hole in the ceiling of our newly refinished basement, any ideas? It was found dead under the hole covered in sheetrock dust. Any clues to solve this mystery would be appreciated.
Greg Martin

Hi Greg,
Your Horntail species did not drill a hole into the ceiling, but rather bored out of the ceiling. The larvae are wood borers. Our guess is the wood used in the refinishing was infested, hopefully with a single larva, and when it matured, it drilled its way out.

Letter 8 – another English Horntail, Great Wood Wasp

 

Horntail or not?
Hi
My mother and her friend at work, caught this after much hysteria (apparently) thinking it was a wasp. We’re in Norfolk in the UK and it looks like, on your site, someone else has found one in the same area. It is about 3 – 4 inches long. Is it a Horntail? I’ve looked around the web and the pictures I’ve found of Horntails have different coloured eyes and abdomens to this, although they share a lot of other similarities. Also any idea whether it would sting? Thanks in advance!
Stuart Millins

Hi Stuart,
This is virtually identical to the insect we received two days ago that we identified as a Horntail. One of our American Species, the Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, looks very similar except for the coloration. They do not sting. The female uses the stingerlike ovipositor to deposit eggs under the bark of trees where the young larvae bore into the wood. A websearch of Tremex and Britain might turn up a photo. Please let us know.

Ed. Note: Additional searching turned up information on the Great Wood Wasp, Uroceras gigas as well as this illustration, which seems to positively identify this British Horntail.

Letter 9 – Horntail

 

What is this?
Dear WTB,
please help me identify this bug, we live in Norfolk in the UK and it landed in our garden, on a hot sunny day this July. The only thing I have found that is similar is a ‘Hornet Robber Fly’ but it has a different body and yellow eyes. > I look forward to hearing what you think it might be!
Rgds,
Matthew Johnson

Hi Matthew,
We are unfamiliar with the English species, but this bears an uncanny resemblance to a Horntail, a type of wasplike insect in the Family Siricidae. They have cylindrical bodies with the thorax and abdomen broadly joined together, not separated by a waist. In females there is a stinger like ovipositor which is used to drill into stems or wood where eggs are laid. Adults feed on nectar.

Letter 10 – Horntail

 

is this an ichneumon perhap
My grandson and I found this on a Tamarack tree in the backyard of our home here in southwestern Quebec. He appears to be depositing something in the tree. We would really appreciate your opinion. Thanks
Rory and Billy

Hi Rory and Billy,
This is a Horntail or Wood Wasp. We believe it is Urocerus albicornis according to images posted to BugGuide. The larvae of Horntails are wood boring and they are the primary hosts for the parasitic Giant Ichneumons in the genus Megarhyssa. Your photo is truly stunning.

Letter 11 – Brachonid Wasp and Wood Boring Grub

 

wood eating larvae and flying adult
Dear What’s That Bug,
I browsed through your selection of insects and did a search but didn’t find the insect I’m looking for so I’m wondering if you can identify this insect. I have attached a photo with the adult, a larvae and a piece of wood the larvae has been eating as reference. I have some larvae eating a particular kind of wood in my wood pile. The wood is some kind of conifer. I also have maple and willow logs and branches on the pile but these guys only seem to like the conifer branches. When active in the pile these guys make a bunch of noise, like a rapid clicking. Any idea who this critter is?
Sincerely,
JR Prospal
graphic and web site design

Hi JR,
Your written account is fascinating, but we believe you have a slight misinterpretation of the events. First, your flying adult is one of the Brachonid Wasps. There are many species with black bodies and red abdomens. These wasps are parasites and might be preying upon the wood boring grubs in your pine brances. The grub appears to be a Cerambycid Beetle larva.

Letter 12 – Male Pigeon Horntail

 

horntail on my finger
July 24, 2009
I know you have some horntail pics already, but here’s a detailed close-up on my finger in case you want something different.
Vince
Northern Indiana

Pigeon Horntail
Pigeon Horntail

Hi Vince,
Thanks for sending us your photo.  What really distinguishes your photo from most of the Pigeon Horntail images on our site is that your individual is a male.  Female Pigeon Horntails have formidable looking ovipositors that are often mistaken for stingers.  We are linking to a matching image on BugGuide identified as a male Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba.

Letter 13 – Great Wood Wasp from UK

 

whats my bug ?
Location:  UK Cambridgeshire
July 20, 2010 8:49 am
Found trying to crawl out of a dry flower pot today ( 20th July )Conditions dry.
Mike

Great Wood Wasp

Hi Mike,
This is a Great Wood Wasp,
Urocerus gigas, and it is sometimes called a Horntail.  The “horn” is the ovipositor of the female.  You can read more about this species on the UK Safari website.

Letter 14 – Wood Wasp from the UK

 

found this in our garden.
Location:  allostock,knutsford,cheshire
August 15, 2010 12:25 pm
could you tell me what this is? i think its a horn tail wasp/wood wasp.
i live in cheshire in the uk.
kerry brown

Wood Wasp

Dear Kerry,
You are correct.  This is a Wood Wasp or Horntail,
Urocerus gigas.  The UK Safari website has a nice page on it.

Letter 15 – Horntail

 

Is this some kind of stump stabber?
Location: Burnaby, BC, Canada
August 24, 2011 5:17 pm
Hi, I was washing my car today and found this resting in one of the doors. It is just over an inch long, black with yellow highlights on legs, head and antennae, and two rather long pointy extension on its abdomen. One located above the other and about half as long as the other. I have never seen an insect like this and would like to know what it is and where it is from. Thanks.
Signature: – John D. Williams

Horntail

Dear John,
Indulge us if we go off on a tangent prior to responding to your questions.  You had us at your lead with the tantalizing question regarding a Stump Stabber.  We have a vague recollection of hearing the name in the hazy past, but at any rate, it immediately conjured up a picture in our minds of a Giant Ichneumon, a somewhat unwieldy common name for
Megarhyssa atrata, and her close relatives.  One would never call the male Giant Ichneumon a Stump Stabber, as he lacks the 5 inch long ovipositor the female uses to lay eggs that hatch into larvae that feed on the wood boring larvae of the Pigeon Horntail, a type of Wood Wasp.  

So, we looked up the name Stump Stabber and we found the Canadian Talk About Wildlife website and sure enough, a Stump Stabber was pictured to be a Megarhyssa, possibly Megarhyssa macrurus.

Your Hymenopteran, Urocerus albicornus, is a Horntail Wasp that lays her eggs in “hosts include fir, larch, spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red cedar” according to BugGuide.

Hi Daniel,
Thanks for the info. I got the term Stump Stabber from a bug field guide I got as a kid, “Bugs of British Columbia, a Lone Pine Field Guide by John Acorn and Ian Sheldon”. I just thought it was that kind of bug because of the ovipositor and the long hind legs. I got a better picture of it when I let it go onto a plant. It is attached if you’re interested.
Thanks again,
John Williams

Horntail:  Urocerus albicornus

Thanks for sending us a new photo of this elegantly beautiful Wood Wasp that clearly shows her ovipositor.

Letter 16 – Bug of the Month September 2011: Pigeon Horntail

 

Giant wasp with an extra stinger?
Location: Ontario, Canada
August 31, 2011 6:36 pm
Hello bugman! I found this GIANT wasp on my back deck hanging out on the wall. Take a look at the stinger area, there seems to be an extra stinger or something protruding from its bum! very bizarre, and I can’t find a picture like it anywhere! Hope you can help me find out what this is!
Signature: curious

Pigeon Horntail

Dear Curious,
What you have mistaken for a stinger is actually this female Pigeon Horntail‘s ovipositor.  She deposits her eggs beneath the bark of diseased and dead trees and the wood boring larvae help break down the wood as part of the complex decomposition process.  The larvae of the Pigeon Horntails are preyed upon by another frightening looking but harmless non-stinging relative of wasps, the Stump Stabber, a very colorful name for the Giant Ichneumon.

Pigeon Horntail

Wow, thats really neat!  Thanks for helping me identify my bug and making it bug of the month!  It looked terrifying, so I kept my distance.  Glad to know its harmless as I was a bit of a wimp while looking at it!  Thanks again

PIgeon Horntail

Letter 17 – Asian Horntail from Japan

 

Japanese Pigeon Horntail?
Location: Shiroi City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
September 30, 2011 11:42 pm
Found this pretty insect loitering outside of my apartment here in Japan. Was initially put off the by the size of its stinger, but could never pass up such a golden photo opportunity.
Signature: Tori

Asian Horntail

Hi Tori,
This is some species of Horntail in the family Siricidae, and we believe it may be the Asian Horntial,
Eriotremex formosanus, which we found pictured on the Urban Forestry website because the species was accidentally introduced to North America in infested shipping crates.  It is also pictured on the SmugMug website.

Letter 18 – Spotted Wood Wasp

 

What is this bug in my house?
Location: Northern Indiana
April 5, 2012 10:41 am
White antenna, wings, body has stinger. Looks like a carpenter ant or termite swarmer, but has a stinger and white antenna
pic #1 is view from the top
pic #2 is bottom view of bug
Signature: from Indiana

Spotted Wood Wasp

Though we did not recognize this insect, we thought it resembled some Wood Wasps we have seen.  We quickly identified it as a Spotted Wood Wasp, Xiphydria maculata, thanks to an excellent photo posted to BugGuide.  The antennae really are quite distinctive.

Letter 19 – Pigeon Horntail: Unnecessary Carnage

 

Subject: What in the world is this?!
Location: Castle Rock, CO
July 30, 2012 3:08 pm
Hi, We found this flying around our kids trampoline enoclosure today..very big and loud! Is that a stinger on its backside?? Would love to know what this is and is it as harmful as it looks?
Signature: The DeYoung Family

Pigeon Horntail

Dear DeYoung Family,
This Pigeon Horntail is a type of Wood Wasp, and what resembles a stinger is actually the ovipositor, the organ the female uses to lay eggs.  Pigeon Horntails do not sting people.  The ovipositor is used to deposit eggs under the bark of dead or dying trees and the larval Pigeon Horntails are wood boring insects.  While we do not blame you for killing what might have appeared to be a harmful insect, we hope that in the future you will remember that Pigeon Horntails are harmless and the larvae help to break down dead trees so that the nutrients can be reabsorbed into the soil.

Letter 20 – Horntail

 

Subject: Long red winged bug with a long stinger
Location: 40°17′56″N 111°41′47″W
June 28, 2013 7:28 am
I found this cool looking bug today at work when I was unwrapping a pallet of wood. I do not believe it is from here in Utah since it was wrapped in the wood, and the wood comes from out of state. It is rather long, and has what I believe to be a long stinger. It was rather aggressive when I was trying to put it in a bag, kept trying to sting me.
Signature: Not sure

Horntail
Horntail

This is a Horntail.  Without knowing the origin of the wood, it is difficult to be certain, but we believe this looks like Xeris indecisus, which is pictured on BugGuide and is reported from California.  According to BugGuide, there are six species in the genus native to North America north of Mexico and “X. melancholicus is northern transcontinental, the rest are western.”  While Horntails are frequently called Wood Wasps and they are classified with wasps and bees, they are not known to sting humans.  The stinger is actually a modified ovipositor which the female uses to lay eggs, by inserting it into wood.  In stinging insects, the ovipositor serves dual purposes and it is considered to be a modified ovipositor.  It is conceivable that the ovipositor of a Horntail might penetrate human skin since it can penetrate wood which is much denser, however, Horntails are not aggressive.  It is possible that this individual was in the pupal stage when the wood was milled and it survived and emerged upon its arrival to Utah.

Thankyou very much. I will try and see if I can find out where our would is shipped from.

Letter 21 – Great Wood Wasp

 

Subject: what is it?
Location: Northampton, England
July 13, 2013 4:39 pm
can you identify this bug please
Signature: Donna

Wood Wasp
Great Wood Wasp

Dear Donna,
This is a harmless Great Wood Wasp,
Urocerus gigas, a species whose larvae bore in dead, generally coniferous wood.  See UK Safari for more information.

Letter 22 – Horntail

 

Subject: WTB
Location: Seattle wa
July 20, 2014 7:13 pm
found this in my backyard. there as only one that i have ever seen
Signature: Rae Ann

Horntail:  Urocerus albicornis
Horntail: Urocerus albicornis

Hi Rae Ann,
We are positively thrilled to be able to post your magnificent image of a very impressive Horntail,
Urocerus albicornis, a species with a range limited to the Pacific Northwest.  Horntails are classified in the order Hymenoptera which includes Ants, Bees and Wasps, but Horntails, which are frequently called Woodwasps, cannot sting.  The female uses her impressive ovipositor to lay eggs beneath the surface of trees or stumps, and the wood boring larvae feed on the wood.  According to BugGuide:  “hosts include fir, larch, spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red cedar.”  Of the family, BugGuide notes:  “Some are serious pests of trees and spread as larvae with lumber trade.”

Letter 23 – Wood Wasp: Urocerus albicornis

 

Subject: Big wasp like bug visits picnic
Location: Powell river, bc
August 8, 2014 5:21 pm
We were having a picnic at the Saltery Bay picnic/beach and this rather large bug decided to join us
August 6, around 5:30 pm
Powell river regional district, bc not far from the Saltery bay ferry terminal
Signature: Noni

Wood Wasp:  Urocerus albicornis
Wood Wasp: Urocerus albicornis

Hi Noni,
This is
Urocerus albicornis, a species of Horntail or Wood Wasp without a common name.  According to BugGuide, it is found in  “forested regions from southern boreal Canada south to NC-MP-NM-CA” and “hosts include fir, larch, spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red cedar.”  According to all the information we have read, they are harmless and do not sting humans, including this family information on BugGuide:  “Horntails do not sting: what looks like a sting is the ovipositor the female uses to lay eggs in wood.”  With that stated, we need to divulge that we just posted this very credible report that a man in England was “stung” by a European relative of your Wood Wasp.  That unverified report seems to be an anomaly.

Thank you for your reply.. She visited a bit and then with gentle nudge flew off on her way, much to the happiness of the other occupant of the picnic blanket.. Such a beautiful big bug!!!
😉 noni StReMmInG

Letter 24 – Black and Red Horntail

 

Subject: Any ideas what this is?
Location: Buffalo, NY
August 17, 2014 9:10 pm
Does anyone have a clue what this flying bug is? Not sure if it came from the pine logs I was cutting but it also appears to have a stinger
Signature: Nick

Black and Red Horntail
Black and Red Horntail

Dear Nick,
Though we have no shortage of other Horntails on our site, including the Pigeon Horntail, this is the first example we are posting of a Black and Red Horntail,
Urocerus cressoni.  Horntails are Wood Wasps and the larvae bore in wood of dead and dying trees.  According to BugGuide:  “hosts include Fir, Spruce, and Pine (Abies, Picea, Pinus).”  

Letter 25 – Horntail

 

Subject: what is this
Location: spanaway Washington
June 28, 2015 11:57 am
Its about 1,5 to 2 inches long
Signature: lamont

Horntail
Horntail

Dear Lamont,
This is a Giant Wood Wasp or Horntail in the genus
Urocerus, and based on images and sighting information on BugGuide, we believe it is Urocerus flavicornisThe ovipositor at the end of the abdomen indicates that this is a female.  The female uses her ovipositor to deposit her eggs beneath the bark of trees and the larvae that hatch bore in the wood.

Letter 26 – Male Pigeon Horntail

 

Subject: can you identify this insect?
Location: Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
July 26, 2015 5:35 pm
Rescued this insect from my pool. Never seen one like it. First thought is it may be some type of hornet/wasp. It is around 1″ long.
Signature: Danno Cracker

Male Pigeon Horntail
Male Pigeon Horntail

Dear Danno,
We are very excited to post your image of a male Pigeon Horntail, because though we have numerous images of female Pigeon Horntails on our site, there is a noticeable dearth of images of male individuals.  Female Pigeon Horntails have a long stingerlike ovipositor that is used to lay eggs in the wood of dead and dying trees, and males lack the ovipositor.  We compared your image to that of a male Pigeon Horntail on BugGuide and they appear to match.  Because of your water rescue, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.

Letter 27 – Wasp Moth from India is a Sandlewood Defoliator

 

Subject: local name and scientific name
Location: Modasa,Gujarat,India
August 7, 2015 4:58 am
Respected Sir,
I have taken this pic at my home but i didn’t recognize this moth so pls help me
Signature: manthan mehta

Sandalwood Defoliator
Sandalwood Defoliator

Dear Manthan,
This is a diurnal Tiger Moth in the subfamily Arctiinae, a group that has undergone considerable reclassification in recent years.  We found a matching image posted to India Nature Watch that is identified as
Amata passalis, the Sandal Defoliator.  India Biodiversity calls the species a Wasp Moth, which is a more general name for a group that is similarly classified.  iNaturalist classifies the species in the tribe Syntomini, a group collectively called the Wasp Moths or Handmaiden Moths.  ResearchGate has a technical paper where the species is called the Sandalwood Defoliator.  So the scientific name is Amata passalis, and potential common names in order of increasing specificity are Tiger Moth, Wasp Moth or Handmaiden Moth, and the common species name is the Sandalwood Defoliator.  There may be a more local name in your area.

Letter 28 – Giant Wood Wasp from Canada

 

Subject: What is this creepy guy?
Location: Sundre, Alberta
August 11, 2015 9:24 pm
Just wondering what this guy is and if it’s harmful. We’ve had a few around this year, and this one was quite upset when I moved it from it’s location and flew right at me afterwards.
It was in the shadow of my ATV seat where I was going to sit.
Signature: Sondzi

Giant Wood Wasp
Giant Wood Wasp

Dear Sondzi,
This Horntail or Wood Wasp,
Urocerus flavicornis, is not considered dangerous to humans as they do not sting.  The larvae feed on the wood of coniferous trees.

Letter 29 – Horntail

 

Subject: What is this????
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
August 17, 2015 10:37 am
hi there, just saw this and was wondering what it is?? it has me freaked out!!!!
Signature: Denise

Horntail
Horntail

Dear Denise,
This is a Horntail or Wood Wasp in the genus
Urocerus, most likely Urocerus albicornis.  They do not sting.  The female uses her ovipositor to lay her eggs beneath the bark of conifers.  According to BugGuide:  “hosts include fir, larch, spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red cedar.”

Letter 30 – Male Pigeon Horntail

 

Subject: orange dog wasp
Location: courtice arena, ontario canada
September 1, 2015 5:49 pm
sorry lost my last submission trying again. Found this orange looking wasp that has a puppy face. search but could not find any identification on this guy. Was really lucky he sat still and posed for me. sept 1/2015 around 6;30 pm in an open field .
Thanks
Signature: Terri Martin

Male Pigeon Horntail
Male Pigeon Horntail

Dear Terri,
Though we have no shortage of images of Pigeon Horntails on our site, male specimens like your individual are at a premium.  Almost all the images of Pigeon Horntails on our site are females, and we even have a good number of ovipositing Pigeon Horntails.  These Wood Wasps are known scientifically as
Tremex columba, the sole food eaten by larval Stump Stabbers, Megarhyssa atrata.  The female Stump Stabber has a much longer ovipositor than the female Pigeon Horntail because unlike her prey, she must lay her egg with incredible precision so the hatchling can locate its host.  Here is a BugGuide image of a male Pigeon Horntail.  By the way, your images are gorgeous.

Male Pigeon Horntail
Male Pigeon Horntail

Thanks Daniel.  Hoping one day to find an insect that no one can identify then I can name it.

Pigeon Horntail
Pigeon Horntail

Letter 31 – Asian Horntail

 

Subject: Bee, wasp, or other
Location: Virginia
November 14, 2015 6:41 pm
Dear bug man,
A friend found this bug and I’m having a hard time finding what it is with the help of Google (haha) hoping you might be able to shed some light on us. Thank you so much for your time. 🙂
Fellow bug lover,
Signature: Lena

Asian Horntail
Asian Horntail

Hi Lena,
We are going to have to go with “other” on this identification.  This is an Asian Horntail,
Eriotremex formosanus, which we identified thanks to this image posted to BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “introduced accidentally with wood (crates, etc.); first reported in 1975” and the larvae feed on “hardwoods (oak, hickory, sweetgum, probably others); attacks mostly dead/dying wood, so not a serious pest.”  Additional information can be found on Featured Creatures.

Asian Horntail
Asian Horntail

Letter 32 – Wood Wasp from Alaska

 

Subject: Thing is huge
Location: Anchorage AK
July 9, 2016 1:41 pm
I have never seen one of these before. It is pretty close to 2 inches long. Biggest wasp i have ever encountered
Signature: Cory brignone

Horntail
Wood Wasp

Dear Cory,
This is one of the Horntails or Wood Wasps in the family Siricidae.  They have larvae that are wood borers.  Your particular Wood Wasp is Urocerus flavicornis, a species that uses conifers as the host.  According to BugGuide its range is:  “all forested regions of Canada and the US.”

Letter 33 – Great Wood Wasp from England

 

Subject: Large strange insect in garden
Location: Heptonstall west Yorks Hx7 7ha
August 6, 2016 8:14 am
Found this large bug in kids blue tray in garden. Never seen anything like it. What is it and isn’t safe please . It is about 2 ich long. Has bright yellow eyes and a trail like. Thing st back
Signature: Joan Rutkowski

Great Wood Wasp
Great Wood Wasp

Dear Joan,
This is a Great Wood Wasp,
Urocerus gigas, and you can read more about it on UK Safari where it states:  “They’re sometimes called ‘Giant Horntails’ for obvious reasons.  The female Great Wood Wasp has a long pointed tube at the back of her body, and this is usually 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 slightly fearsome appearance, these insects are quite harmless.”

Thank you so much for that quick reply. Glad to know it is not harmful and we have let it loose in the conifer hedge

Letter 34 – Horntail tunnels through drywall of new home

 

Subject: Mystery bug
Location: Southern California – Murrieta
August 7, 2016 11:31 am
Please help me identify this bug. It seems to be tunneling out through the dry wall of my brand new house. It makes a perfectly round hole
Signature: Marilyn

Horntail:  Sirex nigricornis
Horntail: Sirex nigricornis

Dear Marilyn,
This is a Horntail, a type of Wood Wasp, in the family Siricidae, and we believe we have correctly identified it on BugGuide as a female
Sirex nigricornis.  According to BugGuide it has a range “across Canada (QC-AB-?BC) and the US south to FL-TX” and the larval food is “wide host range, mostly on various pines.”  Pine is a common building material, and our supposition is that there were larvae in pine logs that were used in the construction of your home, and when metamorphosis was complete, this individual emerged.  If that is the case, you may see more.

Letter 35 – Black Horntail

 

Subject: Big winged black bug with long tail?
Location: Alfalfa, Oregon
September 26, 2016 8:51 am
Location: central Oregon
Seen: September 25, 2016
Signature: Sandy

Black Horntail
Black Horntail

Dear Sandy,
This is a female Horntail, a non-stinging relative of wasps that uses her long ovipositor to lay eggs beneath the bark of trees.  We believe your black Horntail is in the genus Sirex based on BugGuide images.

Letter 36 – Horntail

 

Subject: Insect all over Cedar trees
Location: Castleford, Idaho
October 10, 2016 4:45 pm
It appears to be boring into the trees and causing damage
Signature: ??

Horntail
Horntail

This is a Horntail in the family Siricidae, and probably in the subfamily Siricinae, the subfamily that feeds on conifers.  Horntails are non-stinging relatives of Wasps, and they have larvae that bore in wood.  This female is likely in the process of laying eggs.  She looks like she might be Sirex nigricornis, a species pictured on BugGuide.  Though there are only a few images posted to BugGuide and they are from Pennsylvania and New York, the range, according to BugGuide, is “across Canada (QC-AB-?BC) and the US south to FL-TX” and “wide host range, mostly on various pines.”

Letter 37 – Xiphydriid Wood Wasp

 

Subject: Wasp like bug?
Location: Rockville, MD
April 4, 2017 2:31 pm
Hi!
We recently discovered a lot of these wasp-like bugs near the front windows of our house. They range in size from 1/4″ to 1″ and seem to walk more than they fly. Their antennae wave around rapidly too. I tried looking up parasitic wasps and various nymphs but have come up empty. Would love to know what these guys are!
Signature: Audrey

Xiphydriid Wood Wasp

Dear Audrey,
We found your Wasp in our archives where we identified it as a Spotted Wood Wasp,
Xiphydria maculata, though once we turned to BugGuide, we discovered this species does not have a common name.  BugGuide indicates it “Prefers maples.”  Of the family Xiphydriidae, BugGuide states:  “The larvae bore in the dead or decaying wood of deciduous trees.”  According to Connecticut Wilderness:  “A parasitic wood wasp. Wood wasps drill into a tree by using an ovipositor. This is a tube which is like a needle. It contains two interlocking valves. Each valve is covered with teeth that are backward- facing. Black and white/cream colored.  Reportedly prefers maple trees.”  Perhaps you have some maple firewood in the house, or perhaps you have recently acquired a piece of furniture that was infested with wood boring larvae that emerged inside your home.

Xiphydriid Wood Wasp

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! We brought some wood in from some branches that dropped in our yard and we do have a maple, so that makes sense.

Xiphydriid Wood Wasp

Letter 38 – Horntail

 

Subject: Unknown Horntail
Location: Washington
August 8, 2017 12:30 pm
I was moving some logs in my backyard I’m Mukilteo and came across this little guy. I captured it and then continue moving the logs. I found three more but the third one got away. One of the additional ones I got is all black while the other is just a bigger version of the first one. I know they are Horntail, research from this website but which kind?
Signature: Elizabeth

Horntail

Dear Elizabeth,
Your Horntail is
Urocerus albicornis which you can verify by comparing your individual to this image posted to BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “hosts include fir, larch, spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red cedar.”

Letter 39 – Great Wood Wasp from Ireland

 

Subject: What is this bug
Location: Co kerry ireland
August 13, 2017 11:35 am
Can you tell
Me what this isb
Signature: Michelle osullivan

Great Wood Wasp

Dear Michelle,
This is a Great Wood Wasp,
Uroceros gigas, and according to UK Safari:  “Great Wood Wasps are often mistaken for Hornets because they look similar to a wasp but considerably larger.  They’re sometimes called ‘Giant Horntails’ for obvious reasons.  The female Great Wood Wasp has a long pointed tube at the back of her body, and this is usually 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 slightly fearsome appearance, these insects are quite harmless.”

Letter 40 – Great Wood Wasp from the UK

 

Subject: Unknown Bug
Location: Pembrokeshire
August 13, 2017 5:18 am
Sirs,
What is the bug shown in the attached photographs? It appeared from timber posts that were delivered this week. Apologies for only getting one photograph but it also had what I assume was a stinging needle approx 10mm long. I live in West Wales and have not seen one of these before.
Many Thanks,
Signature: Byron

Great Wood Wasp

Dear Byron,
We just finished posting an image of a Great Wood Wasp from Ireland.

Letter 41 – Black and Red Horntail

 

Subject:  a flying insect , black with red on bottom
Geographic location of the bug:  Luzerne county, PA
Date: 08/05/2018
Time: 05:02 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I never saw this insect before.  It resembles a wasp and looks like it has a stinger on it’s end, the abdomen is a bright red , has wings and the rest of it black.
How you want your letter signed:  Dan

Black and Red Horntail

Dear Dan,
The only other image we have on our site of a Black and Red Horntail,
Urocerus cressoni, looks amazingly like your image.  According to BugGuide:  “hosts include Fir, Spruce, and Pine (Abies, Picea, Pinus).”

Thank you. Definitely looks like the picture you sent.

 

Letter 42 – Male Horntail

 

Subject:  wasp
Geographic location of the bug:  Wheatland, Wyoming
Date: 08/07/2018
Time: 02:39 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What’s this bug?
How you want your letter signed:  Roger Lockwood

Male Horntail

Dear Roger,
This is a male Horntail in the genus
Urocerus, which we identified thanks to this BugGuide image, and there is a comment attributed to Dave Smith on that posting that states:  “Urocerus sp., male. Could be either U. albicornis or U. flavicornis. The males are difficult to separate.”  Horntails are sometimes called Wood Wasps, but they do not sting, and no male wasps are capable of stinging anyways.  Here is an image from our archives of the female Urocerus albicornis and here is an image of the female Urocerus flavicornis.  The ovipositor of the female is used to lay eggs beneath the bark of conifer trees and its appearance is responsible for the common name Horntail.

Letter 43 – Horntail

 

Subject:  Striped Wasp-like bug & a fly/bee type bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Black Mtn Fire Lookout, SW Wyoming, USA
Date: 07/13/2019
Time: 01:23 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Please identify this wasp and fly-type bug. Hanging out at my Fire lookout.
How you want your letter signed:  Roger Lockwood

Wood Wasp

Dear Roger,
We will take your identification requests one at a time to give each insect its just due.  The wasp is a type of Horntail in the genus
Uroceros, most likely Urocerus flavicornis which is pictured on BugGuide.  We tried to determine the preferred host trees for this Wood Wasp, but we had to zoom out to the subfamily level on BugGuide to learn they feed “on conifers.”  We wanted more details to complete this posting, so we continued to research.  According to the US Forest Service, where the BugGuide provided taxonomic name is actually a subspecies Urocerus gigas flavicornis, they feed on “Fir, larch, spruce, pine, and Douglas-fir.”

Letter 44 – White-Horned Horntail

 

Subject:  Bug Found in trunk of dead pine tree
Geographic location of the bug:  State of Connecticut
Date: 06/09/2021
Time: 12:33 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Trying to identify bug that was burrowing in the lower trunk of a dead pine tree. The photos were taken last week.
How you want your letter signed:  ?

White Horned Horntail

This is a species of Wood Wasp known as a White Horned Horntail, Uroceros albicornus, which we confirmed on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “hosts include fir, larch, spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red cedar.

Damage caused by White Horned Horntails

Thank you so much for getting back to me!
Michael Taylor

Letter 45 – Horntail

 

Subject:  Flying insect
Geographic location of the bug:  Coquitlam, BC
Date: 07/27/2021
Time: 06:14 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this creepy flying insect while landscaping, never seen anything like it before curious what it is.
How you want your letter signed:  Zach Rayner

Horntail

Dear Zach,
This is a Horntail in the genus Uroceros, a type of Wood Wasp whose larvae bore in wood.  There are three similar looking species in the genus found in British Columbia.  It appears your image was shot in late afternoon sunlight, and when we corrected for the warm golden color that lighting at that time of day imparts to the subject it falls upon, we believe this is the White Horned Horntail Wasp,
Urocerus albicornis, which is pictured on BugGuide.   According to BugGuide:  “hosts include fir, larch, spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red cedar.”

Thank you very much for your quick response to my question it is highly appreciated
For a second I thought I had discovered a new species of insect because I had never seen anything like it before in my life
Thanks again!

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

24 thoughts on “Preventing Wasps from Invading Your Wood Deck and Fence”

  1. Hi
    I live in Alberta, Canada, just North of Calgary. My family and I were out camping by Water Valley, and came across this wasp.
    I would like to know where did it come from? For it is not around here and what will it do to the wasps and bees that are native to here? For there are a lot of these wasps out there.
    Kim Morton

    Reply
  2. Hi
    I live in Alberta, Canada, just North of Calgary. My family and I were out camping by Water Valley, and came across this wasp.
    I would like to know where did it come from? For it is not around here and what will it do to the wasps and bees that are native to here? For there are a lot of these wasps out there.
    Kim Morton

    Reply
  3. I have just found a large wood wasp in my garden, I must admit I have never seen anything so big it looked like four wasps in one. Are they dangerous.

    Reply
  4. Found this bug, (photo on link, I couldn’t workout how to send the photo here) I found it dead in the green house this morning. Not really sure what it is, I have never found anything like it before.
    Thanks for your help in advance.
    By the way I live in the midlands in the UK

    Reply
  5. Found this bug, (photo on link, I couldn’t workout how to send the photo here) I found it dead in the green house this morning. Not really sure what it is, I have never found anything like it before.
    Thanks for your help in advance.
    By the way I live in the midlands in the UK

    Reply
  6. From first point of insertion to complete withdrawal occupied ten minutes. The insect then moved off again, but once more the ovipositor was slipped from its sheath and driven for its full length into the wood ; in this case the operation taking a little longer, twelve minutes until complete withdrawal.

    Reply
  7. Do you know if it repopulates quickly? I recently came back from a wedding in Montana and passed through Idaho on my way back. Somehow, we found maybe 4 of these guys in our car when we got home in Oregon. We killed them immediately, but just hope they haven’t started to reproduce

    Reply
    • We believe we have read that the life cycle takes several years. According to BugGuide: “larval development may take 1 to 3 years to complete depending on species and climate.” Based on what we know about the climate of Montana, we are guessing that the cold winters would extend the larval stage to the three year span. According to Bug Eric: “It usually takes more than one year for the horntail to complete metamorphosis.”

      Reply
  8. I just found some Xiphydriid Wood Wasps near Rochester Michigan May 23 2017 never saw one before had to search the net but got an ID they were on a box containing maple fire wood, they almost do not look like a wasp and they walk around calmly.

    Reply
  9. I just found one of these rather beautiful insects on my deck and had to look him up. Thanks for having such an easy to use web site and clear pictures so that I could identify him.

    Reply
  10. Is this the same as a banded horntail? I was camping in kananaskis in Alberta and saw a few big guys around my campfire! Scared me and my friend.

    Reply
  11. Hi there I was in the Scottish Highlands in Braemar when I was hit by a one of these monsters I was walking in a heavily wooded pine forest when it latched onto my jacket and quickly reacted to brush it off and took a photo never seen anything as big as that that before.

    Reply
  12. 1. What is the normal size, of just the body as well as the body and appendage (stinger?) of the Wood Wasp as might be found in South Central Alaska, Anchorage area?

    2. Are the aggressive?

    Reply
  13. This looks a lot like a bee that I saw flying by my front porch in south-central Alaska last year. I was totally freaked out because it was huge! Bigger than the large bumblebees that we have. In fact I thought it was a bumblebee hybrid. Not that I know anything about whether bees cross mate or not.

    Reply
  14. I just found one in BC Canada! It was motionless and presumed dead in our swimming pool and 30 minutes after taking it out it started moving! Cool bug, great website

    Reply

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