Mammoth Wasp Facts: All You Need To Know

Did you find a huge wasp in your yard and are afraid of it? Don’t worry; it is likely the mammoth wasp. We will share all the necessary details about this wasp in the article below.

When you think of wasps, you probably picture the small, black, and yellow insects that buzz around your picnic table.

But did you know that there is a species of wasp that is almost as big as your hand?

That’s right; Mammoth wasps can grow up to nearly two inches long!

They are found in various parts of the world, including North and South America, Africa, and Asia.

Despite their intimidating size, mammoth wasps are actually fascinating creatures that play an important role in their ecosystems.

In this article, we will explore the unique characteristics and behaviors of these giant insects.

What Are Mammoth Wasps?

The mammoth wasps are the largest wasp species in the European region. They are also known as Megascolia maculate.

These giant wasps belong to the Scolidae family of insects.

Mammoth wasp sightings are most common during warmer weather. May to August is a good time to spot them flying around flowers, seeking nectar.

Also, these species of wasps are not social. They are solitary and unlikely to be seen in a group.

Let us look at a few details to help you identify these wasps.

What Does A Mammoth Wasp Eat?

Mammoth wasps can have a body length of up to 1.77 inches body length. The female wasps are comparatively bigger than the male adult wasps.

They can be identified by the striking orange-red, yellow heads with fine bristly hair and black body.

They have huge mandibles and some bright yellow spots in the abdomen.

At times these black wasps can be confused with the hairy flower wasp (Scolia Hirta). The former is comparatively larger in size. Also, the flower wasps have a black-colored head!

As for their diet is concerned, the mammoth beetles consume nectar from flowers.

The females hunt the grubs of Rhino beetle grubs to lay the eggs(this will be discussed in detail in upcoming sections).

Mammoth Wasp

Where Do Mammoth Wasps Live?

Mammoth wasps are mostly found in various parts of Hungary, and southern Europe, including the Czech Republic; They prefer to be around warm and dry places.

They are also found in various regions of the United States, like Missouri.

Since they are parasitic wasps, they rely on rhino beetle grubs to develop. The female mammoth wasps track a rhino beetle grub to lay eggs inside its skin.

Hence, they frequently visit spots like decayed logs, tree stumps in the ground, and more to search for the hosts.

You can also find them flying around nectar-rich flowers like Dwarf Elderberry, Field Eryngo, White Horehound, etc.

Life Cycle of A Mammoth Wasp

The mammoth wasp life cycle occurs in four stages: The eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult stage.

Being solitary and parasitic, the female starts searching for a suitable host to lay the eggs after mating.

They usually go for the Rhinoceros beetle larva. In some cases, the females target other beetle species like stag beetles, Polyphylla Fullo, and more.

The female searches for spots like decaying wood and digs into them to track the host larvae.

On tracking the host, she uses her sting to paralyze the host. Once that is done, she carefully lays an egg inside the skin of the rhino beetle larva.

On hatching, the wasp larvae consume the host from the outside.

Once these larvae eat the host entirely, they get big enough to start pupating.

Here they start weaving a reddish cocoon around the body. They stay inside the cocoon throughout the winter before emerging as adult wasps with beautiful yellow bands from the soil in spring.

After emerging as adults, they start visiting various flowers in search of nectar and mates to repeat the same cycle.

Interestingly, the male wasps hatch a little earlier than the females and usually fly to heights of 19-59 inches in search of female mates.

Mammoth Wasp

How Long Do Mammoth Wasps Live?

As mentioned earlier, mammoth wasps live longer as a larva and pupas.

They stay in the pupal stage throughout the winter and emerge during spring.

Adult wasps do not live for long. They are not able to survive the winter and usually die before the season arrives.

Also, out in the wild, these insects are hunted down by predators like birds.

Do They Bite?

Yes, mammoth wasps have stingers, and they can sting humans.

But these stinging insects are not aggressive toward humans and will not attack unless they are threatened.

They use stingers to paralyze host species like rhino beetle larvae.

However, you must not be reckless and manhandle them.

Are They Poisonous/Venomous?

Mammoth wasps do not use their stingers to inflict pain on humans.

Also, these are entirely harmless and are not poisonous. But they will sting if you try to manhandle or threaten them.

If you spot a mammoth wasp, watch it from a distance and do not try to touch it.

Are They Harmful or Beneficial to Humans?

Due to their intimidating size and appearance, people consider them dangerous, but they are not.

These insects are beneficial to humans as they promote cross-pollination. Being active consumers of nectar, they fall on flowers like milkweed, hollyhock, lavender, silk plant, and more.

Doing so helps to transfer the pollens across various regions. Also, they can help get rid of rhino beetle larvae living in decaying wood.

Female Mammoth Wasp

How To Get Rid of Mammoth Wasps?

Mammoth wasps may look gigantic and scary, but they are gentle creatures who will not harm humans unless they are threatened.

There is no need to exterminate the mammoth wasp population near your home.

However, you can avoid these appearances by making sure that there are no pieces of decaying wood near your house.

These spots are ideal for rhino beetle larvae. The females will get attracted to them.

Also, they are particularly attracted to flowering plants like milkweed, hollyhock, lavender, silk plant, and more. Limit the number of such plants in your garden to keep the mammoth wasps away.

Interesting Facts About Mammoth Wasps

Mammoth wasps are fascinating creatures, and the sections above contain all the necessary information that you need to identify and understand these giant insects.

Here are a few interesting facts about mammoth wasps that you might have missed in this article:

  • The female mammoth wasps are comparatively bigger than the male wasps. These females have short antennae and yellow faces, while males have longer antennae and black faces.
  • Male wasps emerge earlier than females as adults. These males can fly up to 19-59 inches in search of female mates.
  • The female wasps get ready for mating soon after emerging from the pupa in spring.
  • When the larvae build a cocoon around themselves, the remains of the host stay near the cocoon.

Female Mammoth Wasp

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the mammoth wasp dangerous?

Yes, the mammoth wasp can be dangerous. They are known for their large size and powerful stingers, which can cause pain, swelling, and even allergic reactions in some people.
However, mammoth wasps are not typically aggressive toward humans and will only sting if they feel threatened or provoked.
It is important to exercise caution around these insects and avoid disturbing their nests or habitats.
If you encounter a mammoth wasp, it is best to move away slowly and give them plenty of space.

Is the mammoth wasp sting painful?

Mammoth wasps can sting but they don’t do it on purpose. If you get stung, it is likely to cause a bit of redness and swelling that might remain for a few days.
Keep in mind that mammoth wasps only sting when it is absolutely necessary. They won’t go out of their way to seek you out for stinging.
Hence, if you see this large wasp in your garden or yard, please do not try to attack it. It will not come to bite you any way.

How did mammoth wasps get their name?

Mammoth wasps got their name due to their large size and intimidating appearance. can grow up to 1.77 inches in length.
The term “mammoth” is often used to describe things that are very large or impressive, and the name “mammoth wasp” is fitting for these formidable insects.
Despite their name and appearance, mammoth wasps are an important part of their ecosystem and play a role in controlling other insect populations.

Can mammoth wasps survive winter?

Mammoth wasps usually do not survive the winter. They can live in a variety of environments, but during the winter, they do not get the food and water necessary to survive.
As pupae, they can overwinter – which is why they live longer in that stage of their lives rather than as adults.

Wrap Up

Mammoth wasps are the largest wasp species in Europe. These insects are known for their giant size and intimidating appearance.

They are abundant in regions of Hungary and Southern Europe. You can also find them in various regions of North America.

Despite the scary features, these insects are not aggressive to humans and are non-poisonous.

To keep them away from your house, you can eliminate decaying logs and flower plants like lavender, silk plant, and more.

Remember to not be reckless around as they can deliver painful stings. Thank you for reading the article.

Reader Emails

The giant-sized mammoth wasps cause a lot of interest in all those who encounter them.

We can see this in the hordes of letters that we have got from our regular readers asking questions about this wasp.

Please go through some of the letters, many of them sent over the years to us, along with some beautiful pictures of this wasp in its natural environment.

Letter 1 – Mammoth Wasp from Italy

 

gigantic bee/ wasp. Makes a hornet look small July 29, 2009 Hi, heres a good one for you, I do a lot of macro insect photography and have seen lots of bugs over the years, but after a single sighting whilst on holiday in italy (I’m from the UK) and hours of fruitless internet digging I’ve had no luck identifying this beast. It had a body length of over 2″ (no kidding!) and distinctive markings (see pictures). It made the local european hornets (plently of them) look small. It spent most of its time on the ground with short flights between plants. I dont have any extreme closeups since I didnt want my head any closer to it!! Shots with canon 100mm f2.8 macro and 5D MKII. Hopefully you can shed some light on this! David Lewis Tuscany, Italy
Mammoth Wasp
Mammoth Wasp
Hi David, We have just secured the funding to purchase several Canon 5D cameras for our photography program at LACC.  We were struck by the similarities between your wasp and a North American species, Scolia nobilitata which may be viewed on BugGuide.  Armed with that information, we searched Scolia and Italy and were led to a photo of Scolia flavifrons, the Mammoth Wasp, on TrekNature.  Then we found more images with the name Megascolia maculata flavifrons, obviously a synonym.  Continued searching led ut to the Wildside Holidays website that includes this information:  “This is a very large solitary wasp, the female reaching up to 4.5cm whereas the male is a little smaller. This species appears in warm weather during late May, June, July and August. They hold no danger to humans despite their size and black / yellow warning colours. They feed eagerly on flower nectar and this is the best time to view them.  The larger female can be told apart by her yellow face and short antennae. The male has a black head and longer antennae. Both have two yellow bands on their abdomens which can sometimes be divided to form 4 spots, which is more evident on the female in these pictures.  You may see several of these wasps flying around decaying tree stumps, they have a purpose here. They are searching for larvae of a particular beetle. Inside the rotten wood may be young of the Rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes nasicornis) [See image below]. The female Mammoth wasp once she has discovered the huge larvae will sting one to paralyze it and then lay her egg on the outer skin. On hatching, the larvae of the Mammoth wasp will eat into its host thereby killing it. The larva of the wasp then creates a cocoon near to the meal remains. It will stay in this cocoon over winter and hatch out once the spring weather warms sufficiently.”  Because of the yellow face, your specimen is a female.
Mammoth Wasp
Mammoth Wasp

Letter 2 – Mammoth Wasp from Sicily

 

Huge Sicilian wasp August 12, 2009 Hi experts, I’m hoping you’ll be able to tell me what this beast is. I’ve only seen it dead as I fished it out of a pool in Western Sicily a couple of weeks ago and in any case I don’t think I’d have dared get close to it alive. Apologies for the quality, I only had my phone by way of camera and it began to stink and was covered in ants after an hour out of the pool so I had to abandon it. The body was smooth and hairless like a wasp’s but the abdomen ended bluntly instead of in the typical tapered point. There was a brown ovipositor or sting sticking out, almost a millimeter thick. Rizla packet included for scale. The bug was almost 2 inches in length / across the wingspan. I’m hoping you’ll tell me it was a wasp as I’ve been scaring friends with the picture ever since! Many thanks. Steve Lawson Paceco, Western Sicily
Mammoth Wasp
Mammoth Wasp
Hi Steve, Just two weeks ago, we posted some photos of a Mammoth Wasp, Scolia flavifrons, from Italy.  Here is information we found from the Wildside Holidays website:  “This is a very large solitary wasp, the female reaching up to 4.5cm whereas the male is a little smaller. This species appears in warm weather during late May, June, July and August. They hold no danger to humans despite their size and black / yellow warning colours. They feed eagerly on flower nectar and this is the best time to view them.  The larger female can be told apart by her yellow face and short antennae. The male has a black head and longer antennae. Both have two yellow bands on their abdomens which can sometimes be divided to form 4 spots, which is more evident on the female in these pictures.  You may see several of these wasps flying around decaying tree stumps, they have a purpose here. They are searching for larvae of a particular beetle. Inside the rotten wood may be young of the Rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes nasicornis) [See image below]. The female Mammoth wasp once she has discovered the huge larvae will sting one to paralyze it and then lay her egg on the outer skin. On hatching, the larvae of the Mammoth wasp will eat into its host thereby killing it. The larva of the wasp then creates a cocoon near to the meal remains. It will stay in this cocoon over winter and hatch out once the spring weather warms sufficiently.“

Letter 3 – Mammoth Wasp with Phoretic Mites from Iraq

 

Wasp Location: Baghdad, Iraq May 19, 2011 1:55 am These large ”wasps” (?) are quite common over here. I found this one dying today so… I’d like to know the species AND I’m really curious about the apparent parasite infestation it is suffering from. They look like ticks of some sort. Thanks! Signature: Phil Monroe
Mammoth Wasp with Phoretic Mites
Dear Phil, We stumbled a bit on this but eventually we found the identity of your Flower Wasp in the family Scoliidae.  We based that initial search on the robust size and hairy legs of this magnificent creature.  According to BugGuide, the best source for well organized insect identification of North American species, Flower Wasps can be identified by as being: “Robust wasps, medium-sized to large. … Bodies hairy… Usually dark-colored, often with light marks (yellow or white) on abdomen.”  The web search then provided a BioLib link and we immediately landed on a nice composite image of Megascolia maculata maculata.  The yellow head on your individual indicates she is female.  Elsewhere on BioLib, a page with images of living individuals contains this description “Abdominal apex with red pubescence” and that is supported in your photograph with the scaled ruler.  A Cretan website indicates that it “is the largest European solitary wasp”  and the author writes “It doesn’t seem to be a very rare insect but I had never seen one close-up before.  Females will find, paralyze with their sting and then lay their eggs in larvae of large beetles (such as dung beetle and rhinoceros beetle). Upon hatching the wasp larvae will then feed on the paralyzed grub.”   Here is some information from the not to terribly scientific Wildside Holidays website:  “This is a very large solitary wasp, the female reaching up to 4.5cm whereas the male is a little smaller. This species appears in warm weather during late May, June, July and August. They hold no danger to humans despite their size and black / yellow warning colours. They feed eagerly on flower nectar and this is the best time to view them.The larger female can be told apart by her yellow face and short antennae. The male has a black head and longer antennae. Both have two yellow bands on their abdomens which can sometimes be divided to form 4 spots, which is more evident on the female in these pictures.  You may see several of these wasps flying around decaying tree stumps, they have a purpose here. They are searching for larvae of a particular beetle. Inside the rotten wood may be young of the Rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes nasicornis) [See image below]. The female Mammoth wasp once she has discovered the huge larvae will sting one to paralyze it and then lay her egg on the outer skin. On hatching, the larvae of the Mammoth wasp will eat into its host thereby killing it. The larva of the wasp then creates a cocoon near to the meal remains. It will stay in this cocoon over winter and hatch out once the spring weather warms sufficiently.”  TrekNature also has a nice photo and information.  North American species also paralyze Scarab Beetle Grubs.  What you believe to be parasites are Phoretic Mites.  These Mites do not harm the host insect, but use it for transportation purposes.  Phoretic Mites often attach themselves in great numbers to flying insects who then transport the Mites to new locations and fresh food supplies.  There may be some benefit for the Mammoth Wasp for this to be considered a symbiotic relationship.  Perhaps the mites feed on something at the location where the Beetle Grubs are found that ensures that the wasp larva will not have any competition for food, but that remains to be researched.
Mammoth Wasp with Phoretic Mites
Wow!  That’s a lot of info!  Thanks! That’s interesting about them flying around stumps.  We have a great deal of date palms here and they fly around the base of those almost exclusively.

Letter 4 – Mammoth Wasp from Spain

 

Wierd Spanish Bug Location: Andalucia, Spain August 1, 2011 3:56 pm I live in spain and came across this bug the other week. it could not fly very well but was pretty huge! Signature: Mr McCann
Mammoth Wasp
Dear Mr. McCann, Throughout the years, we have gotten several images of the Mammoth Wasp, Scolia flavifrons, and each time we cannot help but to be impressed by one of the most magnificent wasps in the world.  It seems appropriate that such a large wasp would prey on the larvae of the impressive Rhinoceros Beetles.  We have some good links on our 2009 submission from Sicily

Letter 5 – Mammoth Wasp from Spain

 

Subject: Spanish beetele, Andalucia Location: Ayamonte, Andalucia, Spain May 28, 2012 12:41 pm Here it is, it landed on my wife, and it was very large… about two inches long minimum I cant find it on your website. Please advise what it is…. Signature: Andy W
Mammoth Wasp
Hi Andy, This is not a Beetle.  It is a Mammoth Wasp and there are several submissions in our archive including one from Spain.  The Mammoth Wasp feeds on nectar and it is frequently seen visiting flowers, but the helpless larva feeds on the grubs of Rhinoceros Beetles.  The female Mammoth Wasp hunts for the Scarab Larva and stings it to paralyze it.  She then lays an egg, thus providing a fresh food supply for each of her progeny.

Letter 6 – Mammoth Wasp from Thailand: Megascolia azurea

 

Subject: Wasp or hornet or ? Location: Chiang Mai (northern Thailand). May 4, 2014 12:26 am Hi, this big flying insect comes into my house the last 2 days. It is not aggressive and about 5 cm long. I made the pictures through a glass bowl. Signature: Ricci
Mammoth Wasp:  Megascolia azurea
Mammoth Wasp: Megascolia azurea
Dear Ricci, This is a magnificent wasp, and we were immediately struck by its resemblance to the European Mammoth Wasp, which is represented in our archives and identified as either Megascolia maculata or Scolia flavifrons.  We may need to go back through our archives and make some corrections.  So, with that as a point of departure, we believe we have identified your individual as Megascolia azurea  on the HK Wildlife Forum and we found an example identified as a Digger Wasp from Hong Kong in our own archives.  This image from TheBugRoom indicates that only the female of the species has the red head, an example of sexual dimorphism.
Megascolia azurea
Female Megascolia azurea

Letter 7 – Blue Flower Wasp from South Australia

 

Subject: Black wasp with yellow head Location: Naracoorte SA December 26, 2014 7:41 pm Hi Mr Bugman, if love your help please! I’ve just been bitten or stung (several times it would appear!) by this wasp. As is to be expected, it’s incredibly painful! I’m currently lying on the couch with ice applied – what a wonderful excuse to watch the cricket!! I’m in Naracoorte SA and Im not at all familiar with this type of wasp however my mum tells me she has seen them about. Can you please identify the wasp so that I may call my new nemesis by name! By the way, it took half a dozen attempts to kill, his body must be extremely hard! Many thanks in advance Belle Baker Signature: ??
Mammoth Wasp, we believe
Mammoth Wasp, we believe
Dear Belle, Though we were not able to locate any matching images on iSpot or elsewhere on the internet, we believe that this is a Mammoth Wasp in the family Scoliidae based on its resemblance to this European species of Mammoth Wasp.  It is curious that we were not able to find any South African documentation on such a distinctive looking, large wasp. Ed. Note:  Correction South Australia, not South Africa Thank you, that’s really interesting. Naracoorte is in South Australia, not South Africa… Warmest Regards, Belle Thanks for alerting us to the South Australia location.  That makes a big difference.  We believe we have correctly identified your Mammoth Wasp as a Blue Flower Wasp, Discolia verticalis, thanks to the BushCraftOz website where it states:  “Large solitary wasps. Very hairy with dark blue body and yellow patch behind head. Adults have shiny dark blue wings and stoutly built. Nectar feeders, especially eucalyptus blossum. Females have spiny legs for digging in wood or soil searching for beetle larvae and other insects to parasite. Size – up to 59 mm. There are 25 species of flower wasps that belong to Scoliidae.  Note: Flower wasps will sting if disturbed. Multiple stings can cause systemic reaction. Warning – if symptons indicate systemic reaction seek urgent medical advice.”  There is a distribution map on the Atlas of Living Australia Update:  January 1, 2015 Subject: Blue Flower Wasp January 1, 2015 2:57 pm Thanks to your site we have decided on  the Blue Flower Wasp as the identity of a swarm (probably 10+ )of wasps buzzing around a Blue Gum for the last 2 mornings. They disappear through the day. They have never been seen to land and make a very low pitched buzz as they fly close to you.  In 25 years we have never seen them before.  They are not aggressive, even when (with some difficulty – they are fast!) we netted one for a close look.  We are in Beetaloo Valley, Southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia. Signature: John Birrell

Letter 8 – Mammoth Wasp from Spain

 

Subject: what is this bug ? Location: valencia Spain June 17, 2016 6:38 am I found this morning on pepples in our garden …it is dead….it measures 5 cms.. its has a black body , prominent yellow markings on body and yellow head long brown wings and very hairy black legs… we live in Spain… any ideas?? Many thanks Signature: Mandy
Mammoth Wasp
Mammoth Wasp
Dear Mandy, This gorgeous creature is a Mammoth Wasp, Scolia flavifrons, and in our opinion, they are much prettier alive than dead.

Letter 9 – Mammoth Wasp from Portugal

 

Subject: Scoliid wasp? Location: Salir, Algarve, Portugal July 28, 2016 9:56 am I spotted this huge specimen in my garden in the Algarve, Portugal. It was quite docile and tried to hide underneath my shower decking. It was about 5-6 cm in size and as you can see from the picture is black with four almost square yellow panels on the lower half. My Portuguese friends are saying it’s a bee killer, is this true? I’ve done some image searches and it looks like a Scoliid wasp, although I’m not sure those are native to Southern Europe. Thanks for your help. Signature: Vincent
Mammoth Wasp
Mammoth Wasp
Dear Vincent, You are correct that this is a Scoliid Wasp or Mammoth Wasp, most likely Megascolia maculata AKA Scolia maculata based on this FlickR image.  It is also pictured on iNaturalist.  Your friends are wrong.  Scoliid Wasps do not prey upon bees.  Adults take pollen and nectar from flowers like most wasps, and the female hunts for Scarab Beetle larvae.  Project Noah indicates there are three subspecies and provides this information:  “The larger female (may reach 5.5-6 cm) can be told apart by her yellow head and short antennae. The male has a black head and longer antennae. Both have two yellow bands on their abdomens, which can be divided to form 4 spots as it is shown on the photos. Nevertheless, they hold no harm to humans despite their size, in contrast to common wasps and hornets. Indeed, mammoth wasps do have stings, but not for self-defence or nest protection (in fact, they are solitary wasps). You may see several of these wasps flying around decaying tree stumps, they have a purpose there. They’re searching for larvae of Rhinoceros beetle (lat. Oryctes nasicornis), The female wasp once she has discovered the huge larvae, will sting one to paralyze it and then lay her egg on the outer skin. After hatching, the larvae of the mammoth wasp starts eating its host, till reaches the size it could create a cocoon, where it can safely sleep through all winter. 6 months later, the larvae turns into pupa and after 1 month more, from under the underground emerges newly formed mammoth wasp. The adult once feed on flower nectar.”  Thank you very much for clearing this up! I’m also happy to hear they feed on the rhinoceros beetle, those were responsible for killing the magnificent palm tree we had in our garden a few years back. I’ll definitely not harm these wasps when I see one in the future. Not that I would harm any creature, great or small 🙂 Vincent.

Letter 10 – Mammoth Wasp from Singapore

 

Subject: Ant or Wasp? Location: Singapore October 12, 2016 1:28 pm Hi, I took this picture in Kitchen Garden, Pasir Ris Park of Singapore on a fine October morning. I can’t figure out whether this is an ant or a wasp. Help appreciated. Thanks! Signature: Teng
Mammoth Wasp: Scolia species
Mammoth Wasp: Scolia species
Dear Teng, Your image of a Mammoth Wasp (AKA Flower Wasp or Scarab Hunter) in the family Scoliidae is gorgeous.  It looks very similar to this FlickR image from Indonesia of Scolia vollenhoveni, and we suspect it is either the same species or a closely related species in the same genus.  Of the North American species, BugGuide notes:  “Larvae are parasitoids of ground-dwelling scarab grubs, esp. Phyllophaga; adults take nectar.”   Of the genus, BugGuide notes:  “7 spp. in our area, a great many more in the Old World (30 in Europe alone).” Dear Daniel, Thanks a million! Regards, Teng

Letter 11 – Mammoth Wasp from South Africa

 

Subject: Any idea what this is? Location: Mpumalanga, South Africa February 12, 2017 2:37 pm This wasp? was rather aggressive. Signature: Yes
Mammoth Wasp
This is a Mammoth Wasp in the family Scoliidae, and though there are several images posted to iSpot of this distinctive Scoliid, it is only identified to the family level.  Female Mammoth Wasps prey upon the grubs of Scarab Beetles which provide food for her developing young.
Mammoth Wasp
Mammoth Wasp

Letter 12 – Female Mammoth Wasp from Malta

 

Subject: identify the insect Location: Malta June 4, 2017 8:55 am Dear Bugman, I found this insect in the fields of Malta and have looked all over the internet to try and identify it. Could you please help. Thank you Signature: S
Mammoth Wasp
Dear S, This magnificent creature is a Mammoth Wasp, Megascolis maculata.  According to the Times of Malta:  “The mammoth wasp is the largest wasp you will encounter in Malta or, for that matter, anywhere in Europe. It belongs to a family of wasps known as scolid wasps and, in fact, is also known as the large yellow-banded scolid wasp.”  According to Maltese Nature:  “Only females have stings. The sting is used mainly to paralyse the white larvae of Europe’s largest beetle; the rhinoceros beetle. She then lays a single egg in the larva’s body. When the egg hatches, the wasp larva starts to feed on the larva’s internal tissues. It eventually kills it and continues eating it until nothing is left but an empty skin. When fully grown the larva forms a cocoon and emerges in spring when the air has warmed up sufficiently.  In Maltese the mammoth wasp is known as qerd iż-żaqquq. Qerd is Maltese for destroyer but I could not find the meaning of żaqquq. I assume that as this wasp kills the larvae of the rhinoceros beetle żaqquq could be a lost name for this insect which nowadays is known as buqarn kbir. ”  According to Project Noah:  “Meeting with this flying monster probably wont let you calm down for a while. The larger female (may reach 5.5-6 cm) can be told apart by her yellow head and short antennae. The male has a black head and longer antennae. Both have two yellow bands on their abdomens, which can be divided to form 4 spots as it is shown on the photos. Nevertheless, they hold no harm to humans despite their size, in contrast to common wasps and hornets. Indeed, mammoth wasps do have stings, but not for self-defence or nest protection (in fact, they are solitary wasps).”  We will be post-dating your submission to go live to our site later in the month while our editorial staff is away on holiday. Dear Daniel, Thank you so much for replying back, it was a very interesting read and I am glad I have a name for this beautiful creature.  Kind Regards S

Letter 13 – Male Mammoth Wasp from Spain

 

Subject: Wasps Location: Costa Blanca , spain June 4, 2017 11:38 am Hi guys can you help me identify this wasp found hovering in my garden today. Signature: Adrian
Male Mammoth Wasp
Dear Adrian, This is a male Mammoth Wasp, Megascolia maculata flavifrons, and you can verify our identification by comparing your image to this FlickR image.  According to Project Noah:  “Meeting with this flying monster probably wont let you calm down for a while. The larger female (may reach 5.5-6 cm) can be told apart by her yellow head and short antennae. The male has a black head and longer antennae. Both have two yellow bands on their abdomens, which can be divided to form 4 spots as it is shown on the photos. Nevertheless, they hold no harm to humans despite their size, in contrast to common wasps and hornets. Indeed, mammoth wasps do have stings, but not for self-defence or nest protection (in fact, they are solitary wasps).”  We have several images of female Mammoth Wasps from Spain in our archives.  Interestingly, we just received a submission of a female Mammoth Wasp from Malta, and we post-dated the submission to go live to our site later in the month when our editorial staff is away on holiday.  We are also going to post-date your submission to go live on the same date.

Letter 14 – Female Mammoth Wasp from Italy

 

Subject: Artists Abraod Location: Venice, Italy June 26, 2017 2:23 pm Dear Bugman, I have just returned from a trip to Europe to with Sharon Lockhart and a group of Cal Arts students (myself included) where we did little more than look at art. However, at the Venice Biennale, we snuck out the back door of the Polish pavilion and stumbled across a beautiful bug. All being artists, we were immediately drawn to its crazy coloring as well as its large size and couldn’t help but wonder what was it?! Please help us all by answering this burning question. Also, as an aside Sharon sends her love. Warm wishes, Signature: Elizabeth
Female Mammoth Wasp
Dear Elizabeth, Welcome home.  This gorgeous, not quite real looking, yellow-headed creature is a female Mammoth Wasp, who can be distinguished from the male Mammoth Wasp who has a black head.  The female Mammoth Wasp hunts for the large grubs of Scarab Beetles, laying an egg on each she finds.  The larval Mammoth Wasp feeds upon and eats the Scarab Grub alive.

Letter 15 – Female Mammoth Wasp from Morocco

 

Subject: Large Bee – Ifrane, Morocco Location: Ifrane, Morocco June 26, 2017 4:07 pm Hello My 6yr old daughter spotted this magnificent beast this afternoon, just next to a bin on some grass. We were strolling through the town of Ifrane in the middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco (26th June). Notable by its size – approximately 50mm end to end. Quite furry on its body except for a solid, shiny yellow head and 2 smooth, yellow oval patches on its back. Fine hairy legs too! We’d love to know what it is! Thank you Signature: Naomi, Farida and Soukaina
Female Mammoth Wasp
Dear Naomi, Farida and Soukaina, This is a female Mammoth Wasp, and we just finished posting another example of a female Mammoth Wasp from Venice, Italy.  The yellow headed female Mammoth Wasp is capable of stinging (black headed male Mammoth Wasps cannot sting) but she is not aggressive toward humans.  Her main goal is to locate the large grubs of Scarab Beetles.  When she finds one, she lays an egg that will feed upon the living Scarab Grub when it hatches, eventually killing the grub.
Female Mammoth Wasp
Hello Daniel Absolutely delighted to hear your answer. Thank you so much for taking the time to help. Best wishes, Naomi

Letter 16 – Female Mammoth Wasp

 

Subject: some kind of wasp or hornet? Location: Balkan/Montenegro/PodgoricaJuly 16, 2017 5:54 am Hell0! ☻ It’s been a while since my last entry… so I’ve found this fella yesterday in Podgorica,main city of Montenegro… It was about two inches long,and resting.I just took these pics and continued my way ☻ Anyway,I’ve seen this specific hornet or wasp for the first time,so I’m interested in what species it is exactly… Signature: Sam
Female Mammoth Wasp
Dear Sam, This is a female Mammoth Wasp, and this year we have gotten images of female Mammoth Wasps from Morocco, Italy and Malta.  Female Mammoth Wasps have yellow heads while the heads of male Mammoth Wasps are black.

Letter 17 – Mammoth Wasp from Maldovia

 

Subject:  beautiful bug Geographic location of the bug:  Chisinau, Moldova  46.9989,   28.9126 Date: 03/17/2018 Time: 09:49 AM EDT Your letter to the bugman:  Hello! Today 17.03.2018 i find a bug. But i can’t identified him.  I hope you help me.  It a very beautiful bug,  i see that for a first time. I send you a photo. How you want your letter signed:  The Bug from Moldova
Mammoth Wasp
This beautiful insect is a female Mammoth Wasp
Mammoth Wasp

Letter 18 – Mammoth Wasp from Nepal

 

Subject:  Winged insect Geographic location of the bug:  Nepal (Annapurna region) Date: 11/05/2019 Time: 08:30 AM EDT Your letter to the bugman:  Hi I was on a trek recently (Oct 2019)in the Annapurna region of Nepal. U cane across this winged insect. Would love to know what it is. Thanks How you want your letter signed:  Andy
Mammoth Wasp
Dear Andy, Your image of this amazing insect is awesome.  This is a Mammoth Wasp in the family Scoliidae.  We located this FlickR posting that identifies it as a female Megascolia azurea and the posting indicates:  “another rare record.”  It is also pictured on ResearchGate and iNaturalist.  Mammoth Wasps prey on the larvae of Scarab Beetles, not to eat, but to provide food for the young.  Ray Cannon’s Nature Notes has a nice posting of an encounter in Thailand. Hi Daniel, Thank you so much for your quick response.  Thats amazing. Im so please to have have found out what this insect is. Ive posted it on Instagram, I’ll mention that you helped me i-d it. Regards Andy Hi again Andy, You got lucky with the “quick response” because Daniel was traveling to Washington DC with a group of award winning Journalism students for five days during which time he didn’t respond to any identification requests.

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.

  • 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.

35 thoughts on “Mammoth Wasp Facts: All You Need To Know”

  1. I saw a massive Mammoth Wasp in the north of the Marche region of Italy. It came to sit on my chair after feeding for a long time on some white flowers. I ran, not knowing then what I know now! It followed me right round the house and then back to the flowers for another feed. It later burrowed in the base of the pomegranite tree nearby, then flew off at a waist height. I might be able to post a photo later.

    Reply
  2. I had a mammoth wasp land next to me whilst sunbathing today in the mountains outside Madrid. When I googled it they say the size is up to 6cm, the one I saw and pictured was bigger.

    Reply
  3. Last year we were staying in a flat overlooking Lake Como in Italy. As we were enjoying the view and a number of strange looking wasps approached and we soon saw that they were nest building about half a metre from us. They were slightly larger than the British wasp, but the one thing that really made them different was that they had two long tendrils that hung down and was as long as the whole body of the wasp. My wife put her hand up to swat one of them away and was instantly stung as she came into contact with the wasp. We wondered if the tendrils were some kind of touch stinger as there was no prolonged contact. They appeared an aggressive kind of wasp. The effects of the sting lasted for many days. I can find no picture of this wasp and regretfully I didn’t take any pictures of the wasp despite having many opportunities. Can you help please?

    Reply
    • Hi Gordon
      As someone who lives in Italy, not far from Lake Como, I recognize your description well. What you observed is probably a Paper Wasp; and almost certainly Polistes dominula, the European Paper Wasp. In my house, they build their nests under the eaves of our outdoor balconies: this would appear to be a good match for your location description.

      By the way, I arrived on this page while researching the Mammoth Wasp Megascolia maculata flavifrons. I just found one of these in my garden for the first time, and I take it as an ill omen of global warming: Mammoth Wasps occupy Mediterranean habitats, and my area is supposed to be sub-Mediterranean, with winter frosts – which we haven’t had for 2 winters in a row.

      Reply
    • Hi Gordon
      As someone who lives in Italy, not far from Lake Como, I recognize your description well. What you observed is probably a Paper Wasp; and almost certainly Polistes dominula, the European Paper Wasp. In my house, they build their nests under the eaves of our outdoor balconies: this would appear to be a good match for your location description.

      By the way, I arrived on this page while researching the Mammoth Wasp Megascolia maculata flavifrons. I just found one of these in my garden for the first time, and I take it as an ill omen of global warming: Mammoth Wasps occupy Mediterranean habitats, and my area is supposed to be sub-Mediterranean, with winter frosts – which we haven’t had for 2 winters in a row.

      Reply
  4. We have just found one in Calonge, Girona in Catalunya….and taken its photo too though I don’t know how to upload it. Pleased to know it won’t sting us!

    Reply
  5. I think that SA in this case refers to South Australia, which would fit well as around this time these kinds of ‘flower wasps’ (in Scoliidae) are fairly common in southeastern Australia.

    Reply
    • Thanks for bringing that geographical error to our attention. We also heard back from Belle who clarified the location and we have correctly identified the Blue Flower Wasp.

      Reply
  6. I had one of these pay a visit to me while on the beach in the Algarve the other day .
    I have a picture of it you would like

    Reply
  7. I had one of these pay a visit to me while on the beach in the Algarve the other day .
    I have a picture of it you would like

    Reply
  8. I have just seen one of these Blue Flower wasps in my garden this morning. First I have ever encountered in 25 yrs around here. Approximately 30mm in length and foraging in around the river pebbles. I managed to snap 3 photos before it moved on. It matches the description this page provided, except this one also has a yellow spot on either side of the abdomen. Can send photos if requested.

    Reply
  9. I went to tuscany, italy when i was ia kid and come access the same large wasps. My friends family i was travelling with callled the wasps ‘Apperliornas’

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  10. I just returned from Venice where there was a nest of these Mammoth Wasp in the public park. They didn’t seem to bother anyone, even the pigeons seemed to ignore them. They intrigued me because of there size. Cool looking.

    Reply
  11. I have been looking everywhere to identify this wasp like insect….after my lawn has suffered a black beetle infestation I have now treated the lawn and seen a few of these wasps emerging….have yellow band on head and two yellow spots on left and right side of lower abdomen.
    I live at Seacliff in South Australia and found in early Feb (late summer)

    Reply
  12. I have been looking everywhere to identify this wasp like insect….after my lawn has suffered a black beetle infestation I have now treated the lawn and seen a few of these wasps emerging….have yellow band on head and two yellow spots on left and right side of lower abdomen.
    I live at Seacliff in South Australia and found in early Feb (late summer)

    Reply
  13. I would say that they can be very aggressive. I have just returned from walking my dog and one of these wasps stung me on the earlobe and just inside my ear. It hit the side of my head so hard it nearly knocked me off balance, but that was also because of the instant burning pain. As it hit me my hand came up to swat it away and it stung me again.
    I went strait back home and put apple cider vinegar on the stings and added a cold-pack which seems to be easing the pain.
    All I can say is I’d rather not see another one. This Bugger got me just outside Pattaya, considerably south of Chang Mai.

    Reply

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