If you leave your wooden furniture outdoors in the spring, chances are you will find it scratched, or it may have small holes in it. There are wasps that eat the wood in the world, so let us learn all about them today.
Do wasps eat wood? Some of them do. Surprised? We were too!
Well, technically, they don’t eat it. They use it to make their nests. Moreover, not all wasps do this.
Mud daubers specifically make their nests in the mud and have nothing to do with damaging your wooden furniture.
So which wasps eat wood, and how do they make nests out of it? Let’s find out.
What Do Wasps Eat In The Wild?
Despite their ability to sting and paralyze prey, adult wasps only eat nectar from flowers or other naturally occurring sugary things like honeydew from aphids and other insects.
Adult wasps don’t live very long. They don’t need a lot of nutrition like protein to survive. They load up on carbs so they can fly around, going from one flower to another.
Their stingers disable prey, which they then use as live food for their larvae. They build elaborate nests with many chambers, each one for one egg and an insect or two to eat.
When the larvae come out, they munch away on what the mother has provided and then pupate to come out as adults.
But if they only eat sugary substances, why do some wasps seem to be eating wood? We answer this in the next section.
What Kind of Wasps Eat Wood?
Potter and mason wasps are typically the culprit when your external wood furniture starts getting cuts, scrapes, and little holes in them.
However, their reputation is ill-informed because these wasps don’t actually eat the wood – they are using it to make their homes.
Some of them will live inside the little holes they make in wood, while others carry the wood chips back to their nests.
These wasps are from the Vespidae family but belong to a separate subfamily (Eumeninae) as compared to many other wasps that are also part of the same family.
Other families of wasps include Sphecidae or Crabronidae, which include the commonly visible mud daubers.
As the name suggests, mud daubers make externally visible mud nests (they look somewhat like organ pipers), laying their eggs and putting in food for when the larvae come out.
Potter and mason wasps build their nests in mud pots, usually in a hole in the wall or a crevice between tree bark.
Another difference between potter and mason wasps and mud daubers is that while the former prefer to provision their nests with caterpillars and other insects, the latter prefers spiders.
19 Wasps That Eat Wood (or Rather, Make Their Homes With It)
There are two main varieties of wasps under the potter and mason category: paper wasps and yellow jackets. We cover the main wasps in each of these types below.
Dark Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus)
These wood-boring wasps live in woodlands and savannas, so they have a steady supply of wood all around them to make their homes.
Also known as the northern paper wasp, they are present across North America. Dark paper wasps live in a complex social structure with a dominant queen and a well-defined hierarchy.
These wasps grow between 0.6 to 0.8 inches and are black or brown with yellow coloration. They have a constricted waist and hang their long legs below their bodies as they fly.
Males of this species often have long and curled antennae. Females have stingers and can leave a painful bite.
Northern paper wasps make their homes out of paper created by chewing up wood and other vegetation to create pulp.
Red Paper Wasp (Polistes Rubiginosus)
Polistes Rubiginosus create their nests in hollow trees, buildings, or under wooden platforms. They chip away at the wood to make their homes.
These wasps are part of two sister species, the other being P. Carolina. They are found all over the Eastern United States, in states such as Maryland, northern Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Kansas, central Illinois, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Texas.
These insects are eusocial, which means they have the highest level of complexity in their society.
Their colonies have well-defined hierarchies, each colony can have multiple generations living in them, and the whole nest collectively looks after the young.
They are rust-colored and have several black or brown markings all over their bodies, which include a big spot around the eyes. Typically, they grow between 0.7 – 0.85 inches in size.
Apache Paper Wasp (Polistes apachus)
The apache wasp makes its nests in wooded orchards and vineyards, and it prefers grasslands and mesquite rather than woody areas.
In some cases, they might also make nests near human habitations.
These wasps make huge nests with up to 320 cells at a time. The nest has a single layer and an umbrella-like shape, with the cells open to air at the bottom.
Unlike other wasps, their nests don’t have a wrapping of paper around them.
This wasp can be found in many states of the US and Mexico but most commonly in California.
It is an aggressive wasp and is infamous for attacking farm labor during harvesting season.
It usually prefers to build its nests under the eaves of buildings or in attics when living among human populations.
These wasps have dull-colored antennae and alternating yellow or black strips on their abdomen.
Fine-backed Red Paper Wasp (Polistes carolina)
This is the sister species to Polistes Rubiginosus, the coarse-backed variety, and shares many similarities with them.
P. Carolina makes its nests from wood by chewing it and adding saliva to create something very similar to paper. They also have umbrella-shaped nests with a honeycomb structure of cells inside them.
They often hide their nests in hard-to-find places, such as inside tree cavities, but sometimes can live among humans as well.
They are found mostly around the Eastern United States, from Texas to Nebraska. These wasps can grow to be 0.6 to 1 inch in length and share the same reddish-brown color as their coarse-backed sister species.
Guinea Paper Wasp (Polistes Exclamans)
The Guinea paper wasp makes its nests by chewing wood fibers to create paper. They don’t have an outer coating of paper on the nests like many others. Each nest has a honeycomb structure and can house up to 500 cells.
These wasps can be found in many places across the US, Mexico, Jamaica, Canada, and the Bahamas. They have a eusocial society with a strong hierarchy and several well-defined stages of life.
These wasps can come in many colors, but they almost always have a bit of yellow on their bodies (but not wings).
Hunter’s Little Paper Wasp (Polistes dorsalis)
Hunter’s Little Paper Wasps are another species of paper wasps with a strong societal structure and nests made out of wooden fibers shaped into paper.
These wasps can be found all across North America and typically make their nests very near to the ground. They build nests in places that offer shelter.
The species has a characteristic v-marking on its forehead in yellow, which is present in both males and females.
There are two varieties of these wasps based on their behavior: the first one exhibits swarming behavior, and may have several foundress wasps, while the other one has individual nests and are not very social.
Golden Paper Wasp (Polistes aurifer)
The Golden paper wasp has been found in many locations across Canada, US and Mexico.
There are multiple color patterns on these wasps, depending on where they live. The wasps near the north often have a black color with yellow markings, but the southern ones are almost wholly yellow-colored. Some populations in Mexico and Southern America may also be rust-colored.
Golden paper wasps are also eusocial with a rigid societal structure. They like to make their nests in places hidden from sight.
While they can be found almost the entire year in the south, they are only active during the spring and summer months in the north.
Ringed Paper Wasp (Polistes annularis)
These paper wasps are found in the eastern parts of the United States. They are larger than most of their cousins and usually are of red and black color. They are also known as Spaniard wasps.
This is one of the few wasps that eat other insects also, apart from feeding on nectar. They make their nests overhanging on water bodies and often make them clustered together with many nests around each other.
They also set up the nests in trees and sheltered corners or buildings. Their nests are quite large and can house as many as 500 cells.
Polistes annularis can survive winters, unlike many other wasps. It even stores honeydew and nectar in preparation for winter.
Its principal predators are ants, but birds are also known to knock off their nests. If the nest is too close to the ground, raccoons might also have a go at them.
Metric Paper Wasp (Polistes metricus)
Another wasp native to North America, it can be found in the south, easy and midwest regions of the United States.
Like many of its sister species, these wasps live in eusocial patterns with mating competition and nestmate discrimination.
Their nests are often the site for other species of paper wasps to cohabit and are reusable across seasons.
These are intelligent wasps that decide how to fly from their nest depending on how far they have to go. If going somewhere close, they will fly straight, but if going afar, they will fly up high.
These wasps prefer to make their nests in places where they can get shelter from water and lighting. You might find some of them in barns and sheds and on the undersides of eaves in human homes.
These wasps are dark red in color with the black abdomen and red markings over their bodies.
European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula)
This is a very commonly found type of wasp. It also lives in eusocial nests and is one of the few wasps that feed on things other than nectar, namely insects like caterpillars.
In the European paper wasp colonies, only a few wasps lay eggs, while the worked wasps do not lay any eggs. Their job is only to forage for food.
A dominant queen can, however, be removed from the nest by a challenger queen.
Their ability to eat insect prey makes these wasps more versatile and can easily fit in any environment, even during a shortage of food.
These species originally came from southern Europe and North Africa, but they are also found in America, both north and south. They prefer to live in cool regions of the world, which is why northern Europe is perfect for them
Like most other paper wasps, these wasps also chip away at wood to create paper-like materials to make a nest for themselves.
Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria)
Like their paper wasp friends, yellow jackets also chew wood fiber and mix it with saliva to make a paper-like substance for their nests.
You can find the common aerial yellowjackets all over the US and Canada. In the US, they live between Alaska to Arizona.
These wasps have a hierarchical structure in their nests. They have one queen bee who lays eggs, and the larvae and adult wasps who come out of these eggs become the workers.
It is the queen who creates the first small paper nest. She leads the nest and is very different from her workers both in appearance and size.
The nests are usually made very high up in trees, so these wasps are very well protected from most predators, except for birds.
Parasitic Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula adulterina/Dolichovespula arctica)
These wasps are about 0.55 inches in length (females), and 0males are about 0.45 inches. They are black, white, or pale yellow in color, and some of them have wings with shades of brown.
As the name suggests, they are parasitical in nature. They don’t build nests of their own but usurp the nests of others.
These species only produce male drones and queen wasps. When they invade the nest of another anerial yellowjacket, they coexist with the queen for some time and then kill her.
Then the worker bees of the host nest raise their larvae, and later on, the queens from those larvae overwinter and repeat the process the next year.
There are two species to which these wasps are parasites to the D. Saxonica and the D. Norwegica.
These two species build their nests in trees (though within about 6-7 feet from the ground. They also make overhanging nests dangling from the roofs of houses. They also build their nests in trees.
Eastern Yellowjacket (V. maculifrons)
This species of wasp is found in the eastern part of North America. While most of the time, their nests are underground, they do build some of their nests hanging from roofs of buildings.
These wasps are quite social, with hundreds of them living in the same nest at the same time. They also help each other out in rearing the young and have a caste system among workers, along with several generations living in the same nest.
These wasps can inflict painful bites and are considered quite dangerous.
Their nests are typically huge – they can accommodate more than 10,000 to 15,000 wasps at a time. About one-third of these cells are bigger and are devoted to queens.
These nests are created out of decaying, and worn-out wood, so fresh new teak furniture is not a target for these wasps. Despite their size, the nests are actually quite fragile.
Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa)
Southern yellowjackets are social wasps with huge colonies. They live from east to central North America, and their nests have several combs in them.
These wasps are known to use pheromones to signal both danger and sexual attraction among each other. Unlike other wasps, these guys are insectivores and can eat small insects and animal cadavers.
The southern yellowjacket has a venomous and quite painful sting.
Their nests are usually made in very unique environments, such as inside a yard or under a picnic table.
They use both vegetable fiber and tree bark, chewed and mixed with saliva to make their nests. Each colony of these yellowjackets may contain upto 9,000 wasps.
Western Yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica)
The Western yellowjacket is a product of North America. It loves temperate climates and cannot reproduce in cold climates, which is why you will only see these wasps during the summer and spring months.
During these times, these guys mate and reproduce quite extensively and can grow very quickly to very large numbers.
In fact, in some places like Hawaii, these wasps are labeled as pests since they are both invasive and grow in large numbers.
These wasps make nests from wood fibers but also enclose the nest with a paper-like material and leave just a small 4-10 inch hole in it for entry at the bottom.
These wasps also follow the established structure of a single queen with many worker wasps. When another colony tries to enter into their nests, these wasps can indulge in fierce battles.
These yellowjackets are found mostly in Europe and North Africa, some parts of temperate Asia. However, they have also spread to America, Australia, and other places.
These wasps are often confused with paper wasps because of their paper-based nests, but they are actually yellow jackets.
Queens of these wasps are polyandrous and can mate with several males in the colony, producing lots of offspring.
These wasps can eat other insects like arthropods and spiders and can cause severe damage to the ecology of new places they are introduced to because they are very efficient predators and often take away food from others.
Ichneumon Wasps (Ichneumonidae)
Paper Wasps and Yellow jackets are not the only species of wasps that can forage on trees for wood. The Ichneumonidae are a type of wood-burrowing wasp.
Some species of Ichneumonidae use their ovipositors to search for the larvae of their prey inside tree bark. Upon finding them, they use this needle-like ovipositor to thread the bark and place their own eggs between the larvae of the prey.
When their eggs hatch, they get readymade food for them in the form of the larvae of host wasps.
While they do not directly eat or scratch wood, they can cause a bit of damage to decaying and rotting wood.
Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata)
These wasps are also members of the Vespidae family, and while their name suggests hornets, they are technically yellowjacket wasps.
These wasps have colonies as large as 400 to 700 workers and are quite aggressive in defending their nests.
Their nests have a unique egg shape and are quite large. They have several combs and are covered by a layer of paper from wood fiber chipped off trees mixed with their saliva.
They can be found all over the United States and even in Canada. They are more commonly seen in the southeastern part of the US.
European Hornet (Vespa crabro)
These are the largest wasps found in Europe and are actually hornets, not wasps. They are eusocial and have a strong colony structure in which they live.
Today, these wasps are available in America as well, and their wasp nests in wood are very unique and interesting. They are made out of paper using plant and wood fiber.
These guys are also stingers, but they are not very aggressive. They only attack when a predator gets too close to their nest.
These hornets are carnivorous, unlike most others on our lists. They can eat insects like moths, dragonflies, wasps, beetles, and praying mantises. However, they also like to take sugary food like fruit or honeydew.
The nests are designed with a paper comb o the inside and a paper envelope on the outside, with a small single place to enter into it.
They use branch scrapings, twigs, and anything else that can be chewed to prepare these nets. The pieces are glued together to make a very strong structure.
Their nests are usually made in dark places, and even if there is sunlight, they add the envelope outside to keep the interiors of the nest darker.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get rid of wood-eating wasps?
If wasps have invaded your outdoor furniture and left their larvae in small holes inside it, the only way to get rid of them is fumigation.
You can call for a professional to fumigate your furniture properly, leaving it overnight to dry out so that there are no harmful chemicals left on the wood when you bring it back in.
How do you keep wasps from chewing on wood?
Wood wasps are repelled by some natural home remedies, such as keeping cloves and oranges in and around the wood.
Add a bit of fabric softener to the wood to make the smell more pungent, and you will find that wood wasps will avoid your wooden furniture almost completely.
Are wood wasps harmful?
Apart from destroying wooden furniture, most wood wasps are not trying to attack humans when they are munching away on your wood.
They are simply trying to chew the wood fiber and mix it with saliva to make a paper-like substance that they can use in making their nests.
However, beware – many of the wasps we mentioned above have stingers and can leave behind painful stings. Some are even venomous.
What kind of wasp bores holes in wood?
As we answered earlier in our blog, there are two types of wood wasps that bore into wood – these are the paper wasps and the yellow jacket ones.
These wasps chip away at the wood in order to get material for their nests and use it to make beautiful hexagonal-shaped cells, and some also make an outer covering with the paper so produced.
There is almost always something new and unique to learn about from wasps and other creepy crawlies. You might think they are being pests by destroying your wooden outdoor furniture, but if it’s not too much of a bother, spend some time looking at how they use that wood.
You will be amazed to see huge colonies built out of wood scrapings and the way they are able to turn wood into a paper-like material.
Thank you for reading!
There are several types of wasps that can eat wood. Go through some more of them in the emails and letters from our reader below.
Letter 1 – Pigeon Horntail
Big Wasp-Like Insect
I saw this bug on our screen door (kept getting his legs stuck) so I ran to get the camera and snap a couple of pictures. Can you tell me what it is? I’ve never seen anything like it before. In either shape or size. It looked to be about an inch and a half or so long.
What a beautiful image of Pigeon Horntail, a type of Wood Wasp.
Letter 2 – Pigeon Horntail Ovipositing
Some type of ichneumon wasp?
I took these pictures of two what I think are ichneumon wasps laying eggs in a dead elm recently affected by Dutch Elm disease. Both wasps took about 5 minutes to drill about an inch into the wood. The larger wasp pulled out after 15 minutes and walked around with the antenna feeling along the bark. The smaller female unfortunately was stuck and died. Here are some photos of these wasps. Any additional info would be most interesting. Great site!
Claude Haridge, P.Eng.
Ottawa , ON
This is a female Pigeon Horntail ovipositing. She is a true Wood Wasp and the larvae bore in wood. Interestingly, this is the prey of the Ichneumon that you mistook it for.
Letter 3 – Pigeon Horntail
What is this Bug!!!
Out on my patio on 9/1/07, saw this Bug, never seen it before. This was shot @ 6:00pm CT on Sat. 9/1/07 in Shakopee, MN What is it, it’s has a pretty mean looking stinger. Is it dangerous? See Attached
This is a Pigeon Horntail, a non-stinging wood wasp. The stinger is actually an ovipositor that the female wasp uses to lay eggs under the bark of dead and dying trees.
Letter 4 – Pigeon Horntail
Can you name my bug?
My nephew came inside and said he had a surprise, so we went outside to see what the fuss was about. We live in a little town in western Colorado. Rifle is near a mile above sea level. Our home is about one mile from the Colorado River on the I-70 corridor. The insects was found on a dead branch on our hundred year old maple tree. I hope this helps with the ID. Thanks for the help!
This is a Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba. Pigeon Horntails are sometimes called Wood Wasps and are grouped along with Sawflies in an unclassified taxonomic group known as Symphyta. The wood boring larvae of Pigeon Horntails comprise the primary food of larval Giant Ichneumons in the genus Megarhyssa.
Letter 5 – Pigeon Horntail
What’s this bug?
A friend of mine photographed this bug on her deck and was wanting to know what kind of bug it was. I looked on your site, but couldn’t figure it out. It was photographed in Woodbury, St. Paul, Minnesota.
David S. Justin
You can find images and information on the Pigeon Horntail on our Sawfly page. Pigeon Horntails are non-stinging wood wasps whose larvae bore into wood. Those larvae provide the primary food for the larvae of another non-stinging wasp relative, the Giant Ichneumon.
Letter 6 – Pigeon Horntail
Big red/orange wasp type insect in Pennsylvania USA and Ontario Canada
These photos were taken this past July just outside of Philadelphia. This guy was hanging out on the staircase outside of my building. It was sitting still with it’s wings tucked-in alongside itself, but when I got my camera in for the closeup, he got into this wings-spread stance. Maybe he’s camera-shy? Didn’t fly away though, and went back to his relaxed pose after I took the camera away. It appears to have a long, narrow appendage with a rounded tip sticking out of his backside, and a much shorter one just above it that is shaped like the tip of a fountain-pen. I assume this to be a stinger of some sort. That, and the coloration, lead me to believe he’s a wasp of some sort. I saw a second one about 3 weeks ago on the patio beside my parents swimming pool in Ontario Canada, about 550km northwest of the one I found in Philadelphia. What is this bug???
This is Tremex columba, the Pigeon Horntail. It is in the same insect order as wasps, bees and ants. It does not sting. The female uses the stingerlike ovipositor to place eggs beneath tree bark. The young are wood borers and the primary host insect of another fascinating creature, the Giant Ichneumon.
Letter 7 – Water Scorpion and Wood Wasp
wasp and borer beetle and water scorpion?
I am sending a few photos to you for identification. The first is a wasp that seemed to be trying to lay eggs in a crevice in my shoe when I stopped to rest while hiking. Is that what it is doing? The beetle I assume to be some kind of tree eating critter but don’t know what kind. It was in mixed conifer forest in some mountains in AZ. The photo was taken when he landed on the window of my Jeep. And I am also sending a photo of what I believe you identified for someone else as a water scorpion. You mention that they bite, but we were handling them and they didn’t hurt us, perhaps we were very lucky! Thanks for your excellent website!
|Water Scorpion||Wood Wasp|
We are currently experiencing difficulties receiving images, so we are looking through the archives for interesting photos. When your letter originally arrived, we were very busy with the start of fall semester and we did not get to answer many letters. Your Water Scorpion images from the genus Ranatra are quite spectacular. The wasp appears to be a Wood Wasp in the genus Urocerus, probably Urocerus californicus. Also, please forgive us for our delayed response.
Letter 8 – Pigeon Horntail Ovipositing
Tremex columba laying eggs
My daughter Laurie Rose found this Tremex columba laying eggs in one of our aspen trees. The insect has just inserted her ovipositor into the tree. She took about 5 minutes to insert her ovipositor all the way up to her abdomen. She laid egg after egg for many hours.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Thanks so much for sending in your photo of a Pigeon Horntail Ovipositing.
Letter 9 – Pigeon Horntail
Bug from Bartlett, IL
We found this bug on a tree in Bartlett, Illinois last August and have seen another few again this August. What is it? Great site; Thanks.
This female Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, has been photographed in the act of laying eggs. She uses her ovipositor to lay eggs inside th wood of dead or dying trees. The young are wood borers and they are preyed upon by another wasp relative, the Giant Ichneumon.
Letter 10 – Pigeon Horntails
Good morning, I’m hoping these photos are adequate for you to tell what these critters are. Unfortunately our camera is kind of old for close-ups. They were found in Wellsville, New York located in the southwestern part of the state near the PA border. One of the guys was splitting wood that had been taken down due to it being a dead tree [possibly and Ash] and these were inside of it. They appear to have a long stinger at the end that they try to push out at foes. They have not been seen to fly but they do have wings. They are very pokey and don’t seem to have much energy at this point. The guys are concerned about getting stung and bringing them near their houses if they are serious threats to wood houses. Thanks for any information you can provide.
These are Pigeon Horntails, a type of Wood Wasp. The female uses that stingerlike ovipositor to deposit eggs in dead wood. The larvae bore in the wood. The larvae are a favorite food of the Giant Ichneumon. Though Pigeon Horntails are related to wasps, they do not sting. They would chew their way out of the wood and fly off when metamorphosis was complete.
Letter 11 – Wood Wasp
Please identify this bug for us. It came in a shipment, alive, from Switzerland.
Mike J. Zimmer
We believe this is a Wood Wasp.
Letter 12 – Wood Wasp
Somky Horntail, Northwest Pacific Coast
We discovered what my son and I believe to be a Smoky Horntail in my Lacey (Olympia), WA home on 15 February, 2006. She is pictured in a Gerber baby food jar with a moist paper towel and a bit of honey. She is about to visit Mountain View Elementary School with my son Luke to share with his class. She is about 1 inch and was battered about by my cat, Oliver. I Googled your excellent site and thought that this my contribute to your collection. It seems that the Smokey variety of Horntail Wasps is less represented to the Pigeon. I referenced her in the *National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders (Audubon Society Field Guide) page 805, plate 477. Thank you for your service.
We are happy to post your letter and photo. The Smoky Horntails, genus Urocerus, are most commonly found in the western US and Canada especially where timber has been left on the ground. When Eric Eaton noticed this posting, he wrote in the following correction: “the horntail wasp is not a Urocerus, but is likely Xeris spectrum. A friend, who is an expert on the family, ID’d one for Bugguide recently, or I’d have never known, either. Eric” Eric’s comment then lead us to this site.
Letter 13 – Pigeon Horntail
What is this thing?!
During the summer of 2004, my wife and I took a snapshot of this strange bug crawling around in one of our planter boxes on the patio. It was about 3 to 3-1/2 inches long with a stinger-like tail. I have lived in Michigan practically all my life and never saw anything like it. However, just last August while attending an outdoor party, I came across another. My friend practically jumped 3 feet in the air as it flew around him! He thinks it was some kind of wasp. Is he correct? Thanks in advance for any info may have.
The Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, is a wasp relative that does not sting. That ovipositor is used to deposit eggs in trunks of trees where the grubs tunnel and feed.
Letter 14 – Pigeon Horntail
Pigeon Horntail Photos!
Me again, (Cindy from Ajax, ON). Here’s my last email to you guys. The reason I originally checked out your site was to identify this creepy looking wasp that was crawling up the brickwork of the front of our house. Now that I know it’s a pigeon horntail, and that you had a hard time of getting pictures – here you go! Two of the pics aren’t in great focus, sorry. But one is good. I was kinda afraid of it and didn’t take the time to set up the macro feature on my camera. I’m curious, do these things sting or bite humans? Also, by the description on your site, it appears to me this is a female. One of the pics looks like she’s trying to lay her young in the brickwork. I don’t live near a forested area, but do live in northeast America. Would just north of Lake Ontario be an area where these are typically found? I’ve never seen something like it before. Lastly, is September a common breeding time for them? I took this last year in September & noticed the person who sent you a picture recently took it last month, September, as well.
Again, really cool site.
Ajax, ON CANADA (just east of Toronto)
Our DSL signal went dead the day before you wrote and we just regained it yesterday. We are working overtime to post some of the mail that came in during that week (477 letters). Pigeon Horntails do not sting. We don’t know for sure what the breeding season is. Thanks for the image.
Letter 15 – Pigeon Horntail
I live in Weymouth, MA and I found this bug in my house. What the heck is it? Thanks
This is a Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba. It is a non-stinging wasp relative. The larvae bore in wood. If you have firewood in the house, it may have emerged from the wood pile.
Letter 16 – Pigeon Horntail
Here’s another for ya!
I ran into this on the same hiking trip… Never saw it before and my ID books are at school. Can ya help? Thanks
Nice Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, image. We can’t wait to post your mating Walkingsticks as soon as we properly identify the species. Where were these images taken?
Letter 17 – Pigeon Horntail
New Ichneumon for your site?
I’ve been perusing your site and just can’t get enough! Great photos, quick and entertaining wit, and solid information. Your dedication shows! Thanks for doing this : ) Now on to our bug in question. My daughter and I spotted this lovely insect on one of our many outdoor “expeditions” for fun. On Sept. 18, 2005 this beauty was clearly laying eggs in the lichen-laden bark of a tree near the banks of the Fox River in northern Illinois (Aurora IL). I have been unable to find a photo of it on your site and was hoping you’d further identify it for me. An interesting thing to mention was that within it’s vicinity, within inches, there were two ovipositors stuck in the bark, minus the insects’ bodies! When I tried to pull them out they wouldn’t budge and broke off. Dummy me, should have taken pictures first. Do you know if these insects commonly die while depositing their final eggs or sometimes get their ovipositors stuck? At the base of the tree we did find the dried-up body of another of these insects, minus the ovipositor.
Thanks so much!
Michelle & Becky N.
Lily Lake, IL
Hi Michelle and Becky,
This is a Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, the host insect of the Giant Ichneumon. Horntails are Sawflies, wasp relatives. They have wood boring larvae that the larval Ichneumons use for food. We have heard reports of both Horntails and Ichneumons dying in childbirth, dying with their ovipositors stuck in a trunk.
Letter 18 – Pigeon Horntails
Any idea what the heck this is?
Well I went out tonight to cut down two dead maple trees and that’s when I saw them. Unfortunately they are dead, I thought maybe they were wasps (as we have had problem with them lately) but after the deathly spraying I noticed they looked like nothing I had ever seen. The protruding black, well let’s call it a tail, was sticking in the tree?
These are Pigeon Horntails, Tremex columba, and they are wasp relatives, but do not sting. The portruding tail is a female’s ovipositor, and she uses it to deposit eggs under bark so the wood boring larvae will have a food source. We have heard reports that sometimes she gets stuck and dies attached to the tree, and your letter substantiates that.
Letter 19 – Pigeon Horntail
can you ID this one please ?
We have been waiting for years for a photo of a Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, a relative of wasps and sawflies. It is found in hardwood forests of Eastern North America. The female, like your specimen, uses her ovipositor, which looks like a stinger, to deposit eggs into wood. The larvae eat fungus infected wood of elm, beech, maple, oak and other deciduous trees. The larvae live for about two years inside the wood and they often become prey to Giant Ichneumons.
Letter 20 – Horntail: Urocerus albicornus
don’t know what this bug is – can you help?
I took the attached pictures on Wednesday, July 20th. When I found this bug it was just sitting on something. I didn’t see it move at all. It has wings but I didn’t see it fly. In the picture, you can see someone’s thumbnail for scale reference. I live in Burlington, Vermont if that helps to identify the bug. I haven’t ever seen anything like this before. thanks
This is a Smoky Horntail, Genus Urocerus. They are found in mixed and coniferous forests mostly in the west, but a few species are found in the east. Adults drink nectar and larvae eat wood by tunneling through the sap and heartwood.
Update: Urocerus albicornus
(08/03/2007) Corrections on some ID’s
Today I found a very eye-catching specimen of Urocerus Albicornis, the White-horned Horntail, wandering around on a Douglas Fir in extreme NW Washington State (near Ferndale) and laying eggs. I didn’t know what it was, but I captured it in a very high-tech device (empty paper soda cup courtesy of Burger King!) and brought it home, and after doing a little web-research, found out that it was the critter mentioned above. Actually, it was your website that really helped me make the leap forward finally – I wasn’t getting very far on any of the other so-called “identification” sites. So anyway, after I verified what it was, I tried to get some more information about it, but there doesn’t appear to be very much other than a very very few pictures. Almost NO information to speak of online. However, in the course of my ferreting around I finally came back to your site, and found several other pictures of this very dapper bug. But it looks like they are mis-identified, so I wanted to let you know. In response to the posting by Devon on 7/22/05, you state that it is a “Smoky Horntail,” and in response to a posting on 7/28/07 by Peter, it was ID’d as a “Wood Wasp…might be Urocerus Albicornis.” There were also several other postings that look very much like this bug, only the wings are more rust-colored – these are ID’d as Urocerus Californicus. (9/12/06 by Annie and one other, I don’t remember the date/poster though). I do have to apologize for not taking a picture of it for you guys before I released it, it was a real beauty. I’m glad I didn’t kill it though. … Also, must say, GREAT SITE!!!! Totally fascinating, to say the least. I spent WAY more time browsing around looking at all the cool bugs than the time I needed to find out about the Horntails. Two thumbs up!
Sean in Ferndale, Washington
Letter 21 – Pigeon Horntail
Is this an Ichneumon?
I was taking some pics of some Giant Ichneumons ovipositing in a tree and this one was there too. Actually there were 2 of these on the same tree with about 3 Giant Ichneumons. It was just sitting there, but it’s the same size as a Giant Ichneumon but the “butt” is fatter than the others and the ovipositor a whole lot shorter, about a 1/4″ long. Thanks!
This is a Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, a type of Wood Wasp. This female is depositing eggs that will hatch into wood boring larvae. It is relevant that you found the Pigeon Horntail depositing eggs on the same tree as a Giant Ichneumon because the Megarhyssa species are parasitic on wood boring larva. We found a Colorado State University web page with good information on both species that indicates the Giant Ichneumon is the most common natural enemy of the Pigeon Horntail. The page author, W. Cranshaw, writes of Megarhyssa macrurus: “The adult female can be seen searching the same areas used by the pigeon tremex, although they tend to be present a bit later in the summer. Developing horntail larvae can be detected under the bark by the female and she subsequently drills into the wood to the tunnel of the horntail larva. During egg laying (oviposition) the host larva is paralyzed with a sting after which the egg is laid. The parasitic wasp larva feeds on the paralyzed horntail larva, consuming it completely within a couple of weeks. It then pupates and remains dormant under the bark until the following summer, when the adults emerge. “
Letter 22 – Wood Wasp
Mother of all wasps
I took these photo’s earlier, because I’ve never seen anything like this before. According to your answers it appears to be some kind of wood wasp. And – big clue, it’s standing on a piece of wood! It apperared to be injecting the wood (a recently felled tree) with a giant black 1 inch long needle thingy (to use the technical expression). Can you tell me what it is please. And more importantly, do I win a prize? Excellent Website by the way. Kind regards,
Probably our biggest peeve with regards to letters we receive is a gorgeous photo of a questionable insect when no location is provided. If the photo is blurry, we can just hit delete without responding rather than to waste our precious posting time, but when the photo is as fine as yours, we feel compelled to post it. You may or may not respond with a location, which will help our readership, but will take additional time from posting additional submissions. We get letters from all over the world, and many species look remarkable similar. We believe this is an Oregon Horntail, Urocerus gigas, but if you are in South Africa, that is probably incorrect. The Oregon Horntail is a Wood Wasp. Perhaps Eric Eaton can verify your identification sans location.
Thanks for your reply. I’m sorry about not giving you my location, but when I sit at my laptop, I assume that the rest of the world is sitting just behind the screen! A silly mistake. My location is North Yorkshire, England, UK. I’ve attached the other photo’s, sorry about the inevitable long download time. I hope they’re worth it. Kind regards,
Thanks for the clarification Andrew. We found a website, UK Safari, that indicates the Wood Wasp, Urocerus gigas, is “fairly common throughout the UK.” Now we will need to research if the UK individuals are a different subspecies, if one or the other population was introduced, or if they are in fact native to both continents. At any rate, this is all very interesting.
Your reply on WTB was quite correct: Urocerus gigas is one of those “holarctic” species found on both continents (North America and Eurasia).
Letter 23 – Pigeon Horntail
Strange wasp – can you name?
Attached is a photo of what I think is some kind of wasp. I live in central Missouri and took this picture this last weekend while at an outdoor birthday party. This thing was pretty big – almost 2 inches long. I’ve never seen anything quit like it. I’d love it if you could shed a little light on this strange looking critter. Thanks,
This is a Pigeon Horntail, a type of Wood Wasp. The female lays her eggs in dead and dying wood and the larvae are wood boring. What looks like a fearsome stinger is the ovipositor, and the Pigeon Horntail does not sting.
Letter 24 – Pigeon Horntail
Bug on my tree
I noticed this bug on my Red Leaf Japanese tree. It appeared to have a stinger and also something coming from the abdomen that it was sticking into my tree. The tree appears to be dying and I was wondering if maybe the bug was the culprit.
This is a Pigeon Horntail, a type of Wood Wasp. The larvae bore into wood and if there are significant numbers, they can seriously harm your tree. Chances are better that the tree was already dying, and that attracted the Pigeon Horntail.
Letter 25 – Wood Wasp
What is this?
We live in Eastern Canada and burn wood for the winter. This morning I caught this bug on the floor. What type of insect is this? and is it harmfull? Attached is a pic.
This is a non-stinging female Wood Wasp, Urocerus albicornis. BugGuide does not have much species specific information. The female wasp uses that threatening looking but harmless ovipositor to deposit her eggs in dead and dying wood. The larvae are wood borers. This adult wasp probably emerged from firewood.
Letter 26 – Pigeon Horntail
what’s that bug
I’m from south central PA. Recently I had my tree cut down in my front yard and gave the wood to my friend. He stored it in his garage and a couple weeks later started seeing these bugs all over his garage. He said they are about 2″ long and aggressive. We’ve never seen anything like it. Can you tell us what this bug is? Thank you!
We responded to a letter a few days back with these identical images. Perhaps it was from your friend, or perhaps your spam blocker did not allow our message to get through. If a message bounces back to us, we do not pursue trying to respond to the question. This is a Pigeon Horntail, a non-stinging Wood Wasp.
Letter 27 – Pigeon Horntail
Giant winged earwig, maybe?
Since I’ve moved into my house about 5 years ago, every year there has been one or two of there vicious looking bugs on a half dead tree in the middle of my driveway from late spring to late fall. Same looking bug, near the bottom of the tree. The tree is 80% dead, with all the leaves being at the very top.
I never see it eat or fly around. I just sits on the tree and…pulsates. That’s about the best way to describe it. It doesn’t mind the lawnmower. Only ever seen it on the tree. It’s about 4 or 5cm long. I don’t see any holes that it’s living in.
At first I thought it was some sort of wasp because of the way it’s colored, but the more I looked at it, it reminded me of an earwig. One of my friends said, “That’s what wasps looked like when I was young.” Of course, I have the bug identification skills of a cinder block, so that’s why I thought I’d send it to you.
Thanks for any help, it’d be nice to finally put a name to whatever that is.
Your insect is a Pigeon Horntail, a type of Wood Wasp. This non-stinging species lays eggs in dying and dead trees and the larvae bore into the wood.
Letter 28 – Wood Wasp
Big nasty wasp
Thu, Nov 6, 2008 at 3:29 PM
This is a giant crazy wasp that I found in a mist net while banding birds. It was in some coastal scrub habitat in Marin County, California on November 5, 2008. I have no idea what kind of wasp it is.
Marin County, CA
This is a Wood Wasp or Horntail, and despite its “nasty” appearance, it is perfectly harmless and cannot sting. We believe this is Urocerus californicus based on images posted to BugGuide.
Letter 29 – Pigeon Horntail
Wasp or hornet? (or Queen ant disguised?)
September 15, 2009
My mom and I came across this ENORMOUS and spectacular insect at the playground the other day (end of summer) Are we looking at a queen in training or a dying
cicada or sorts or WHAT????
Thanks. Leela (10 yrs old)
This is a type of Wood Wasp known as a Pigeon Horntail. It is a female that lays her eggs under the bark of trees. The larvae are wood boring grubs. The larvae are the main food source of another spectacular insect, the Giant Ichneumon. Pigeon Horntails do not sting.
Letter 30 – Pigeon Horntail
What’s That Bug?
February 28, 2010
Found this on the side of the house approximately 2 inches in length was using the long protrusion from it’s rear to poke into the little holes of the brick. Notice the stinger on it’s rear also.
This is a Pigeon Horntail, a type of Wood Wasp, and its behavior is highly unusual. The protrusion is the female’s ovipositor, and she uses it to deposit eggs beneath the bark of diseased, dead or cut wood, so there is no real reason for her to be poking around your bricks. Even more unusual is finding her in the dead of winter when there is considerable snow on the ground in Defiance, Ohio.
Ahhhh thank you very much sir, i took this photo last summer was just looking through my pics and wondered if there was a site that could tell me what this was (good name for your site btw) : ) I have a photo of another bug with a long nose i don’t know what it is, if you’re interested if not i won’t bug you. : )
Letter 31 – Pigeon Horntail
Should I be concerned?
Location: Michigan United States
August 13, 2010 4:44 pm
We found this giant in our yard (two so far)and they look very intimidating. Should we call in some experts?
Before we can accurately respond to your question, we need to have concern defined. Are you concerned you may be stung? That is not a concern with this Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba (see BugGuide), a type of wood wasp. This is a female, and what appears to be a stinger is really an ovipositor. The female oviposits her eggs in dead or dying wood, so you may have a dead or dying tree on your property. You may need to be concerned if there is a wind storm and you have a family reunion under the dying tree and a branch breaks off striking several friends or relatives on the head. That could lead to a concussion or even worse. Do you need an expert? We don’t know. Are you capable of cutting down a dead or dying tree yourself? If not, we suggest calling in professionals.
Very Nice!! Thank you for your witty response. You have indeed identified the pest….my relatives. And your extermination suggestion is definitely worth looking into. Looks like I’ll have to move that table a little closer to the tree. Thanks again
Matthew T. Cristoforo
Letter 32 – Pigeon Horntail Ovipositing
Location: northern wisconsin
August 28, 2010 12:35 pm
just wanted to know what this is
This is a Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, one of the non-stinging Wood Wasps whose larvae bore in wood. The female Pigeon Horntail in your photo is in the act of ovipositing. She uses her stingerlike ovipositor to deposit her eggs in diseased wood where the larvae live and feed. We have gotten some nice recent photos of Giant Ichneumons, which are the primary predator of the Pigeon Horntail.
Letter 33 – Pigeon Horntail Ovipositing
Location: Nazareth, PA
August 30, 2010 9:53 am
I took this picture yesterday at a picnic in Nazareth, PA. Was about 2” long and had a 1/4” to 1/2” stinger. Any idea what the heck it is?
The body coloration on this Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, is lighter than the typical coloration, but it is represented on at least one image posted to BugGuide. These Wood Wasps lay their eggs in diseased, decaying or cut wood and the larvae spend several years burrowing and feeding on the wood pulp.
Letter 34 – Wood Wasp
What is it?
Location: NW Oregon
September 15, 2010 6:37 pm
We’ve lived in the same place for 20 years and never seen one of these? We found this one drowning in our pet’s water dish. It came back to life, sort of. Since then, we saw another one flying around some fire wood that we recently brought on to our property. We suspect it may have come with the wood, but have no idea what it is? Can you help us?
Signature: Lisa E.
This is a Wood Wasp in the genus Urocerus.
Letter 35 – Pigeon Horntail
Is this a fly of some sort?
Location: Rockford, Minnesota
June 4, 2011 7:55 pm
My husband discovered this thing on the screen door of our balcony during the summer last year and he had to take a picture of it! We’ve never seen anything like this before!
Signature: Brandee Lee
This is a non-stinging Wood Wasp known as a Pigeon Horntail. The female uses her ovipositor, which appears to be a stinger, to deposit her eggs under the bark of dead or dying trees. The larvae are wood borers. We just recently posted several photos of the Pigeon Horntail’s primary predator, the Giant Ichneumon.
Letter 36 – Wood Wasp from the UK
Location: Billericay, Essex, UK
August 15, 2011 7:27 am
OK so I live in Essex in the UK and this beast came flying into our house. It was about two inches in size (including what I can only assume is it’s sting that was coming from its body)
We live in a suburban area, there are some woods about half a mile away though. It came into the house at about 1pm. Was a sunny day but not incredibly warm.
Any ideas what it is??
This is a Great Wood Wasp or Horntail, Urocerus gigas. You can read about it on the UK Safari website where it states: “Sometimes called ‘horntails’ for obvious reasons. The female (above) has a long pointed tube at the back of her body, and this is often 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 appearance, these insects are quite harmless.”
Letter 37 – PIgeon Horntail
Weird insect never seen before ever!
Location: Bathurst, NB. Canada
August 15, 2011 10:18 am
Hi i’d like to know what kind of bug this is, my friend found this is her yard. The weather has been changing from hot to cold and raining. Nobody has ever seen this insect before? is it poisonous, is it safe? what family of insect is it from? and where does it come from? what does it do?
The Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, is not harmful to people. It does not sting and it is not poisonous, however, the larvae of this Wood Wasp are borers that infest dead and dying trees. Here is a photo from our archives of a Pigeon Horntail ovipositing. You can also find additional information on BugGuide.
Letter 38 – Wood Wasp
Amazing huge wasp
Location: Central Ontario (Algonquin Park)
September 12, 2011 8:50 pm
We saw this wasp/hornet at our campsite in Algonquin park August 2011. It was absolutely huge. As I recall it was more than 1” long. Any idea what this one is?
Signature: J. Wilson
Letter 39 – Pigeon Horntail
Never seen before
Location: Macomb County, MI
September 25, 2011 3:10 pm
I’ve never seen this before. Do you know what kind of bug it is and is it dangerous?
Signature: Thank you very much. Ken
This Pigeon Horntail is a harmless Wood Wasp. What appears to be a formidable stinger is actually an ovipositor that the female uses to penetrate wood to lay her eggs. Any human less dense than wood could potentially be penetrated by a female Wood Wasp, though we have never received a report of that occurrence. We have gotten some nice recent photos of Giant Ichneumons, which are the primary predator of the Pigeon Horntail.
Letter 40 – Pigeon Horntail stepped on by Steve’s mom
big orange wasp?
Location: St. Charles, Missouri
September 29, 2011 4:34 pm
I saw this on the sidewalk today. It was about an inch and a half long. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take the picture until after my mom stepped on it! Please help!?
We hope the reason your mom stepped on this harmless Pigeon Horntail is because she didn’t see it while she was walking, but we suspect otherwise, so we are tagging this as Unnecessary Carnage. Pigeon Horntails are Wood Wasps and they do not sting. The Pigeon Horntail was selected as our Bug of the Month for September 2011.
Letter 41 – Pigeon Horntail
Pigeon Horntail… I think.
Location: Westminster, Md
November 7, 2011 7:10 pm
From looking at other photos on this website I think that this is a Pigeon Horntail. Either way it was a cool looking bug and I wanted to share.
We are happy to hear you were able to identify your Pigeon Horntail by searching through our archives. Pigeon Horntails are Wood Wasps and the larvae are found burrowing in dead and dying trees. There are lighter and darker variations in coloration, and the lighter color of your individual is not as common, but it is documented on BugGuide.
Letter 42 – Wood Wasp from Czech Republic
Subject: Insect identification
Location: Czech republic, near river Sazava
July 11, 2012 2:43 pm
my friend find this bug in Czech republic near river Sazava. There was a lot of them. The attached picture is from: www.muskari.cz
I want to ask you to identify the type of insect.
This is a Wood Wasp, a group of insects with larvae the bore in wood. We believe we have correctly identified it as Sirex juvencus on the Encyclopedia of Life website. There is a nice photo that shows the sexual dimorphism since the male and female look very different from one another.
Letter 43 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: unknown bug
Location: Southern Pennsylvania
October 13, 2012 6:19 pm
I had this bug, and was going to use it for an insect project due at school, but know one could figure out what it was. I thought it was a bee at first, but then I saw that it had two sets of wings. the head and thorax look good but the abdomen is crazy.
Normally we don’t respond to desperate pleas for assistance from students and their parents when they need identifications immediately, but your question has some very astute deductions. This is a Pigeon Horntail, and it is in the same insect order as bees, Hymenoptera, which includes wasps and ants as well as sawflies, wood wasps and parasitoid Hymenoptera. This female Pigeon Horntail is a Wood Wasp and she is a female. She uses the stingerlike ovipositor at the end of her abdomen to deposit eggs into dead and dying hardwood.
Letter 44 – Pigeon Horntail Carnage
Subject: Huge wasp or hornet
Location: Update New York
August 17, 2013 1:53 pm
What on earth is this massive bug, and is the stinger really half the length of its body??
Signature: Almost stung
Dear Almost stung [not even],
This is a Pigeon Horntail, a type of Wood Wasp. What you have mistaken for a stinger is the ovipositor of the female Pigeon Horntail which she drives into the wood of dead or dying trees to lay eggs. The larvae are wood boring insects. We are guessing by the grotesque and unnatural position of this dead Pigeon Horntail that it is a victim of Unnecessary Carnage. In defense of your having mistaken the ovipositor for a stinger, the stingers of bees and wasps are actually modified ovipositors. In some insects like solitary wasps, the stinger/ovipositor is multipurpose, but in social insects like Honey Bees, the sterile female workers can only sting since they are incapable of laying eggs. We believe the chances of being stung by this Pigeon Horntail are next to nil, however, if the ovipositor can drive through wood, it might surely be capable of piercing the far softer human skin, but unlike sterile workers in social insect colonies which sting to protect the hive, Pigeon Horntails would have no instincts to protect their young, hence they are not aggressive.
Letter 45 – PIgeon Horntail
Subject: What kind of wasp?
Location: Wauwatosa, WI
August 6, 2013 12:03 pm
This wasp landed on my friend today. Looks like some kind of mutated paper wasp with the elongated abdomen. There is also not much of a transition between abdomen and thorax and it’s usually very pronounced in wasps. Any idea what it is? Thank you!
Signature: Lucas B.
This is a Wood Wasp known as a Pigeon Horntail. The larvae bore in the wood of dead and dying trees.
Letter 46 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: It’s like a wasp
Location: Southeast Missouri
October 2, 2013 2:25 pm
I wanna know what this thing is, it kinda looks like a big ass red wasp. My friend said it was a horse wasp but I don’t know
Signature: -Hunter Ham
Dear Hunter Ham,
This Wood Wasp is known as a Pigeon Horntail. The larvae bore in the wood of dead and dying trees.
Letter 47 – PIgeon Horntail from a confusing location
Subject: Weird looking wasp!
Location: California/north american midwest
October 10, 2013 1:49 pm
I have no idea what this weird looking wasp type bug is hope you could help.
Please clarify if this photo was taken in California or the North American Midwest. This appears to be a Pigeon Horntail, a species of Wood Wasp, but BugGuide’s data does not have any reports from California, however BugGuide states it is probably adventive in California.
Letter 48 – Giant Wood Wasp from Vietnam
Subject: Unidentified Bug
Location: Saigon, Vietnam
April 15, 2014 4:14 am
Can you identify this flying insect and where they are likely to have originated?
These were found in slatted crates in a shipping container from SE Europe. There were about 10 of these about 25mm long. Some were still alive and there was evidence of wood dust alongside.
Signature: K. Ginty
Dear K. Ginty,
This is a Giant Wood Wasp, and it resembles Uroceros gigas, a species found in Europe. Based on your observations, and the known habits of this species, it is highly likely that the individuals you found were imported with the crate and that they were most likely living as larvae in the wood when the crates were assembled. There are, however, several subspecies found in Asia. According to the Pest Reports EXPOR Database: “Three subspecies of Urocerus gigas are found in Asia. U. g. gigas occurs in Russian Siberia and Kamchatka. U. g. orientalis occurs in China, Japan, Korea and Asian Russia (Far East, Kamchatka and Sakalin) and U. g. tibetanus is known only from Tibet (China).” Despite there presence in Asia, it is our strong opinion that the specimens you found were imported.
Good evening Daniel,
Thank you for the quick response on this – mightily impressed.
I will tell my colleagues in Vietnam.
These scared them somewhat to say the least.
Thank you once again.
You are most welcome Kevin. Also, though it looks quite formidable, that ovipositor is harmless and to the best of our knowledge, the Giant Wood Wasp cannot sting.
Letter 49 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: Big flying bug in western PA
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
July 19, 2014 11:06 pm
Hi – I’ve attached a photo of a flying bug that I found on my porch in Pittsburgh, PA. It was about two inches long – I’ve never seen anything like it ever.
This impressive creature is a Wood Wasp known as a Pigeon Horntail. Your individual is a female and the organ that looks like a stinger is actually her ovipositor, which is used to deposit eggs beneath the bark of dead and dying trees. The larva are wood borers. Pigeon Horntails do not sting.
Letter 50 – Pigeon Horntails from Canada
Subject: Wasp or locust
Location: Southern Ontario Canada
August 12, 2014 4:21 am
Intendant at my golf course captured in these two very dangerous looking bugs what are they
Signature: Curious golfer
Dear Curious Golfer,
These are Pigeon Horntails, a species of Wood Wasp. The female Pigeon Horntail lays eggs in dead or dying deciduous trees, and the larvae bore in the wood, feeding as they bore. According to BugGuide: “hosts include beech, elm, hickory, maple, oak, poplar, apple, pear, sycamore, and hackberry.”
Letter 51 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: Curious Large
Location: Hastings, MI
August 17, 2014 9:51 am
My mom and I found this bug on a dead tree stump where there are a ton of Stump Stabbers around. The next day I found it dead on another area of the stump. I didn’t think it was a wasp since it does not have the separated thorax. It is a bit scary since it was so big, but I’m just wondering what it is since my 13 year old daughter has more curiosity than what is good for her.
Signature: Nervous Mom
Hi Nervous Mom,
You have no need to fear this Pigeon Horntail, because even though it is a Wood Wasp, they do not sting. The female uses her ovipositor to deposit eggs beneath the surface of dead and dying trees and the larvae are wood borers. Interestingly, the presence of Stump Stabbers makes perfect sense as the larvae of Stump Stabbers parasitize the larvae of Pigeon Horntails. This particular female did not mature properly as her wings appear to have atrophied.
That is so incredibly interesting. We see the Stump Stabber’s all the time but have never seen the Pigeon Horntail there. We are around this stump all the time (it is huge) since my herb garden surrounds a small portion of it. Now we don’t have to be afraid.
Letter 52 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: Large wood boring bug with oviduct
Location: Syracuse in
September 1, 2014 12:19 pm
We found this large black an yellow striped winged bug with oviduct …any thoughts
Signature: Mary b
This is a Pigeon Horntail, a species of Wood Wasp. The egg laying organ is an ovipositor.
Letter 53 – Pigeon Horntail from Canada
Subject: What is this bug?! Mutated wasp?!?! Please help!
Location: Windsor, ON Canada
October 27, 2014 12:49 am
Hi there! I’m from Windsor, ON Canada and I was raking leaves in my front yard today and this peculiar, very big and scary bug had landed on my arm. I immediately jumped and swatted it off and it landed on a leaf at my feet… My sister and I took a closer look because it appeared to be stunned or discombobulated so we took the opportunity to snap some photos and examine it. I have never seen a bug such as this, it looks like a mutated wasp and it bothers me to think there are more out there like this… I’m confused because it is now autumn and chilly where I live and most of the bees and wasps are no longer flying around for the season. I would really like to know what bug this is! It appeared to have a stinger, as well as some sort of tail? It did have black and yellow alternating stripes, long yellow legs and it was around 2 inches I would say.
Signature: Thanks so much!! -Sonia
This Pigeon Horntail, which is sometimes called a Wood Wasp, is related to wasps, though Pigeon Horntails do not sting. The female Pigeon Horntail uses her ovipositor to deposit eggs in dead and dying trees.
Letter 54 – Wood Wasp
Location: Edmonds, WA
December 13, 2014 12:19 pm
I have lived in western Washington for 43 years. I have never seen this bug before. It was caught in a spiderweb and already dead. I have kept it in a plastic container since late summer DYING to know what it is. Can you help please?
Thanks so much,
This impressive female Wood Wasp or Horntail might be Urocerus albicornis, which you can find pictured on BugGuide. Though the antennae are missing, and we cannot say for certain that your individual had white antennae while living, and though the white “cheeks” are not apparent in your image, the distinctively striped legs are nicely illustrated, and that feature helped us to narrow the identification possibilities.
Letter 55 – Pigeon Horntail reported to have stung girl!!!!
Subject: What is this insect that stung my daughter?
Location: SE Michigan
January 2, 2015 8:59 pm
I have never seen an insect like this before. I assume it is some kind of bee, although the shape is all wrong. It stung my daughter’s hand back in September and she had a horrible reaction for several days. She ended up being given an epi-pen for future stings. It was hanging around our back deck; we live in southeast Michigan, a little north of Detroit. I tried searching on google, both for websites and doing an image search, to no avail. I’d love if you could help identify it!
Signature: Sharon in Michigan
We are very interested in your report. This is a Pigeon Horntail, a species of Wood Wasp. We generally advise our readership that though they appear to possess a stinger, they are harmless as the stinger is actually an ovipositor used to lay eggs. When in the act of oviposition, the female Pigeon Horntail inserts her ovipositor into wood to lay the egg beneath the surface. Since it can penetrate wood, it would seem to indicate that the ovipositor might also penetrate human skin, though we believe incidents like that are extremely rare.
Wow, thank you so much for this information, it’s quite fascinating. Clearly she must have been stung by something else – in fact, in further questioning my kids, they clarified that they had never said that was the insect that did so, just that it was around at the same time and they thought it was interesting-looking and unfamiliar. Wish I knew what HAD gotten her, but oh well!
Thanks again for your prompt response!
Thanks for that update Sharon. We will continue to advise our readers that Pigeon Horntails are harmless.
Letter 56 – Parasitic Wood Wasp
Subject: what is this?
Location: Southern Illinois
March 28, 2015 6:48 pm
Went on a walk through a wooded area in southern Illinois and saw this insect. I’m not quite sure what it is and I’ve looked all over the internet. Picture taken 3/28/15.
Wow, this one has us confused. It seems to resemble the Black and Red Horntail, Urocerus cressoni, but there are too many inconsistencies for us to be sure. The Black and Red Horntail is described on BugGuide as being: “head, thorax and wings black, abdomen red (amount of red variable), two pale spots behind the eyes, antennae black with white tips.” Additionally, the black and white legs are evident in images on BugGuide. We cannot make out the “pale spots behind the eyes” in your image, and it also appears that the antennae are tipped in black. There is no obvious ovipositor, so it could be a male of the species, however, March is many months earlier than all the sightings documented on BugGuide. With all that said, we do not believe this is a Black and Red Horntail, but we cannot provide any other possibility at this time. We are posting your image and we hope to get some input from our readership.
Eric Eaton Responds
This is a tough one. Near as I can tell, though, it is a parasitic wood wasp in the family Orussidae:
They are common, but not seen very often. They are related to sawflies, but instead of being vegetarians in the larval stage, they are parasites of wood-boring insects, especially beetles. This one might be ovipositing.
The curly antennae are the best clue here, but the angle is awkward and I’d like to see other images, if there are any, before offering a definitive ID. I’ll stand by Orussus sp. for now, though.
author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America
Letter 57 – Wood Wasp
Subject: Black Wasp?
Location: Southern Ontario
July 1, 2015 1:03 pm
Hello! We live in Southern Ontario and my dad found this black and pale yellowish wasp in a bush while he was setting up a fence. To me it looks like a Urocerus gigas, but there are some different markings on it that a Urocerus gigas would not normally have, I know its a wood wasp of some sort but im not too sure. That would be helpful if you could identify this bug. Thanks. 🙂
You are close. You have the genus correct but not the species. Your Wood Wasp is Urocerus albicornis.
Letter 58 – Wood Wasp rescued from Lake
Subject: Saving a Stranger
Location: Green Mountain Falls, Colorado
July 24, 2015 8:12 pm
So this bug we had saved from drowning in a lake/pond with a stick. He dried off and left after a while. Anyway once we got him on dry ground we were shocked by it. We never saw anything like it and really wanted to know what it is. If you could help us that would be amazing!!!
Signature: Lapen Family
Dear Lapen Family,
This is one of the Horntails or Wood Wasps in the genus Urocerus, most probably Urocerus flavicornis, which is also pictured on BugGuide. The larvae bore in the wood of coniferous trees. Your rescue efforts are noteworthy and we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.
Letter 59 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: Giant wasp
Location: Middle of, Ontario canada
August 24, 2015 10:16 am
Can you identify this bug?
Signature: I dont know what this means
This is a Pigeon Horntail, a species of Wood Wasp. The female uses her ovipositor to lay eggs beneath the bark of unhealthy trees. Pigeon Horntails do not sting.
Letter 60 – Pigeon Horntail Ovipositing
Subject: Giant wasp…borrows in tree giving birth? WTB?
Location: West Chester, Pennsylvania
September 4, 2015 4:22 am
I live in West Chester, Pa, and took these photos on September 3rd, 2015. They were taken in my backyard, on a dead tree…that I am in process of removing. I noticed this very large wasp looking insect, it was 2inches I length….I know because I measured it. It was near the base of the tree and looked like it was searching for something. I watched as it found a location and a long black “leg” like thing injected itself into the tree bark . I know it was not a leg because all of the insects legs were yellow and this was black, thinner and was being pushed into the tree. The insect started moving its body back and forth and the black “leg” got shorter and shorter until it was almost not even seen. It stayed there for at least a half an hour and when I came back out side it had moved itself to another part of the tree and was doing the whole process over again. Now, I am assuming it was putting its eggs into the tree bark. I love insects and ha ve never seen a bug this long, or a stinger this long, could you tell me what bug this is? Thanks for your time and your help!
Signature: J Hartz
Dear J Hartz,
Thanks so much for submitting your excellent images and detailed account of this Pigeon Horntail, Tremex columba, in the act of ovipositing. Your speculation is quite accurate. Pigeon Horntails are Wood Wasps whose larvae tunnel in and feed on dead wood of deciduous trees.
Thanks so much for the information! I love looking at all types of insects and studying their life cycle. You have a great websites and it is very helpful, keep up the great work!
Letter 61 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: What is this?
Location: Southern Wisconsin
September 5, 2015 7:39 pm
My mom saw several of these around her yard today. What are they? Do they make nests or sting?
Signature: Heather S
This is a female Pigeon Horntail, a type of Wood Wasp. The female lays her eggs beneath the bark of dead or dying trees, and the larvae are wood borers. They neither sting nor build nests.
Letter 62 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: Mystery bug?
Location: Rhode Island
October 14, 2015 5:15 pm
hi, this bug was found outside a few weeks ago this fall in Rhode Island. I was just wondering if you might be able to indentify it for me ? thank you 😀
Signature: -Zarah J
This sure looks like a female Pigeon Horntail, a species with larvae that bore in the wood of diseased and compromised deciduous hardwood trees, which is why seeing it on a bed of pine needles is a bit odd.
Letter 63 – PIgeon Horntail dies while laying eggs
Subject: Interesting insect
December 5, 2015 9:40 pm
Found this verys curiuse creature deceased and attached to the tree curiouse as to what it is
This female Pigeon Horntail died while laying eggs. She probably could not extract her ovipositor from the tree trunk.
Letter 64 – Wood Wasp from Canada
Subject: Bug identity
Location: Nova Scotia Canada
January 27, 2016 9:12 am
We have found 5 of these in our house …Please help us identify what it is …Thank you
Signature: Paula Hurley
Do you have firewood in the house? We believe this Wood Wasp and its coevals emerged from firewood because their normal development was accelerated due to the heat indoors. Your individual is most likely in the genus Xiphydria, and because of its dark antennae, it most closely resembles the images of Xiphydria tibialis posted to BugGuide.
Yes we do…Thank you very much my husband thought it looked like a form of a wasp..hope they don’t sting …thank you so much for the quick response 🙂
Letter 65 – Pigeon Horntail Ovipositing
Subject: Spiderwasp, spiderwasp, does whatever a spiderwasp does…
Location: Cincinnati, oh
April 2, 2016 2:31 pm
Saw this painting a sign atop a 3 story buidling, it was huge… non aggressive, just kinda walking around. Don’t know if it really is a spider wasp, but from what I looked into, says it might be…
Signature: E. Hutchins
Dear E. Hutchins,
This is NOT a Spider Wasp. It is a female Pigeon Horntail, a species of Wood Wasp, and she is in the process of ovipositing or laying eggs.
Letter 66 – Wood Wasp
Subject: Midas like bug
Location: NW Washington state
May 17, 2016 8:45 pm
Hi, We have an odd bug we’ve never seen. It was seen today 30 miles south of Canada/ US border in Western Washington.
It’s about 1 and 1/4 inches long.
Primarily black with striped legs and long cream antenna.
It was attracted to a newly washed black car.
This is a female Wood Wasp, Urocerus albicornis, a species that does not sting. According to BugGuide: “hosts include fir, larch, spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red cedar.”
Letter 67 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: Asian Hornet?
Location: Salt Lake City Utah
May 27, 2016 6:54 pm
Hi! I saw this on my globe willow last summer. No one knew what it was. Even the Terminix guy didn’t know.
This is not an Oriental Hornet, which to the best of our knowledge has not been introduced to North America, nor is it a European Hornet which has been introduced to North America but is only reported as far west as Texas on BugGuide. This is a native, non-stinging Wood Wasp known as a Pigeon Horntail. Your individual is an ovipositing female who is laying her eggs beneath the bark of your willow tree, indicating there are possibly health issues with the tree. We will be postdating your submission to go live in June while our editorial staff is away from the office.
Letter 68 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: What is this insect?
Location: North Alabama
May 29, 2016 6:52 pm
Can you identify this red wasp looking insect?
Signature: Brad Hawkins
This is a harmless species of Wood Wasp known as a Pigeon Horntail. The female uses her ovipositor to lay her eggs beneath the bark of deciduous trees. According to BugGuide: “hosts include beech, elm, hickory, maple, oak, poplar, apple, pear, sycamore, and hackberry” and “Females lay eggs in diseased, decaying or cut wood.” We are postdating your submission to go live to our site in mid-June during our annual trip away from the office.
Letter 69 – Wood Wasp from Canada
Subject: Whats this bug?
Location: Surrey, BC, Canada
July 24, 2016 10:32 am
I live in Surrey, BC Canada and had this bug land on my boat cover as I was doing some chores.
It was/is about 3cm long… ish… and just seemed pretty content to fly around after I took a few pics.
Never seen something like this and we’re hoping you could tell us what it is.
This beautiful, and harmless, Wood Wasp or Horntail is Urocerus albicornis, a North American species, found, according to BugGuide, in “forested regions from southern boreal Canada south to NC-MP-NM-CA.” BugGuide also notes: “hosts include fir, larch, spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red cedar.”
Letter 70 – Wood Wasp from England
Subject: Large flying wasp insect
Location: North East England
July 17, 2016 1:15 pm
I was working in Hornsea, England today and this insect paid us a visit on a rooftop, clung to a roll of roofing felt. As we had no idea what it was, we were wondering if we could find out what it is!
Signature: Michael Cockerill
Thanks very much for your response, really appreciate the reply!
Very best wishes,
Letter 71 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: Grasshopper/bee hybrid?
Location: Bozeman, MT
September 30, 2016 3:17 pm
This was a very loud bug about 2.5 inches long in overall length. Looks like it had a stinger about 3/8 inches long.
This is a Pigeon Horntail, a non-stinging relative of wasps and bees. See this BugGuide image for comparison. Pigeon Horntails lay eggs beneath the bark on deciduous trees and the larvae are wood borers. According to BugGuide: “hosts include beech, elm, hickory, maple, oak, poplar, apple, pear, sycamore, and hackberry.”
Letter 72 – Unknown Horntail
Subject: Landed next to me
Location: Yakima, Washington
May 26, 2017 10:35 am
Hey, this guy landed next to me here at Yakima Training Center and was wondering if you could ID it for me. Closest thing i could find was a grasshopper hunter wasp, but it doesnt look right. Thanks a bunch!
Signature: Chance Golden
We are relatively certain that this is a Horntail in the family Siricidae which is pictured on BugGuide, but we are not sure about the species. What appears to be a stinger is actually the ovipositor of the female, and she uses that organ to lay her eggs. Eggs are laid beneath the surface of the bark of trees, and the larvae are wood boring insects.
Letter 73 – Parasitoid Telenominid Wasps with Stink Bug Eggs on Woody Plant
Subject: What’s Hatching on my Super Lemon Haze?
Geographic location of the bug: Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Time: 09:32 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dear Bugman,
I’m sorry to trouble you again so soon, but because I am very nervous regarding Budworms, I am trying to inspect my plants carefully every day. Today I noticed these creatures hatching from eggs laid on my Super Lemon Haze hybrid. They were moving around the eggs quickly and appeared to be crawling on top of one another. What’s going on here? Do I have a need to worry?
The first photo was shot without a flash and the other two were shot with a flash.
How you want your letter signed: Constant Gardener
Dear Constant Gardener,
These appear to be Stink Bug Eggs, possibly from the Red Shouldered Stink Bug you submitted yesterday, but those are not Stink Bugs that are hatching. We immediately suspected some Parasitoid Wasp, so we researched Parasitoids that attack Stink Bug eggs, and we found this image on BugGuide of a parasitoid in the genus Telenomus that looks similar to your individuals and this image on BugGuide of another member of the genus. We also located this image on BugGuide of a different parasitoid in the genus Trissolcus and this image on BugGuide of a member in that same genus, both of which have also parasitized Stink Bug eggs. Of the latter genus, BugGuide indicates: “parasitize eggs of Pentatomorpha.” Your images lack critical sharpness due to soft focus, and the images taken with flash also have some “ghosting” from a slow shutter speed. Additionally, we lack the necessary expertise to provide an accurate species or genus identification, but both genera are in the subfamily Telenominae in the family Platygastridae, and this represents a new subcategory for our site. Furthermore, your images are excellent examples of how pests can be controlled with organic methods.
Letter 74 – Pigeon Horntail
Subject: Is this some type of very large wasp or hornet? Please help!
Geographic location of the bug: St. Paul, Minnesota
Time: 03:27 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello!
This very large wasp/hornet-looking insect was on a tree in my front yard. It was at least 2 inches long, with a very thick/large stinger. The striping was almost an orange on it’s abdomen. Very curious what this is!
Thank you in advance
How you want your letter signed: Sure
I think I just figured out what it is!
I believe it’s a Pigeon Horntail female. Apparently they lay eggs to feed on dying trees (which the tree it was on has died…).
You are correct. This is an ovipositing Pigeon Horntail.
Letter 75 – Whitehorned Horntail Wasp
Subject: What is this guy
Geographic location of the bug: Pacific Northwest
Time: 04:48 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I was saving trees and was hanging out in the brush and I happened to come across this thing. Looks like a wasp but I’m not entirely sure what this thing could be.
How you want your letter signed: Shovel logger 03
Dear Shovel logger 03
This is a Wood Wasp commonly called a Whitehorned Horntail, Uroceros albicornus. This female will likely use her long ovipositor to lay her eggs beneath the bark on conifers. The larvae are wood borers.
Letter 76 – Pigeon Horntail
Geographic location of the bug: Iowa
Time: 10:36 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Can you ID this insect
How you want your letter signed: Greg
This is a Wood Wasp known as a Pigeon Horntail. Your individual is a female and what appears to be a stinger is her ovipositor. She lays her eggs beneath the bark of broad leaf trees and the larvae are wood borers. They do not seek out healthy trees but generally choose diseased or rotting trees or sometimes recently felled wood. According to BugGuide, they select “diseased, decaying or cut wood” and “hosts: beech, elm, hickory, maple, oak, poplar, apple, pear, sycamore, hackberry.”
Letter 77 – Why was the Pigeon Horntail interested in an ear?
Subject: Large Insect Identification
Geographic location of the bug: Indiana
Time: 10:19 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: This insect was trying to get into my ear. I swatted it away and it came back. I killed it on my shirt. I have also seen a dead one in my garage and one buzzing me outside. It is 1 1/2 inches long. I have not notice them before. Looks like a bee to me.
How you want your letter signed: G Riley
Dear G Riley,
This is a Pigeon Horntail, a type of Wood Wasp that lays eggs in diseased and dying hardwood. We can’t imagine why it was interested in your ear.