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Photo by cottonmanifesto . Location: Olmsted Park, Boston.

Urban species #241: Great golden digger wasp Sphex ichneumoneus

Though its appearance may be fearsome to some people, the great golden digger wasp is not aggressive, and in fact, feeds only on flower nectar. Their young, however, deep in a vertical burrow in the soil, eat the paralyzed but still-living bodies of the animals provided by their otherwise peaceful herbivorous mother. This wasp is very particular about what food to provide for its larvae: it only chooses long-horned grasshoppers (Family tettigoniidae, which includes katydids). It seems hard to believe that there are enough katydids and their relatives to support this common and widespread wasp, but this group of grasshoppers is characterized by being extremely well-camouflaged. The adults feed on a variety of different flowers, though we always seem to find them on the blossoms of sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), a native shrub used in many city park plantings. Great golden digger wasps are found in most places in North America and in much of South America as well. As long as a given city has soil to dig in, flowers to feed on, and long-horned grasshoppers to provide for its larvae, it is likely also to have this species.

Many thanks to phlogiston for identifying this species. (If you would like to post your picture in the comments, that would be great!)


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 30th, 2006 02:23 am (UTC)
Hey, I get those on my Rose of Sharon! I'm glad to know what they are!
Aug. 30th, 2006 03:33 am (UTC)

Here you go. This one is on Solidago.
Aug. 30th, 2006 02:10 pm (UTC)
Yay! Now we know what loves our butterfly bush!
Aug. 30th, 2006 06:10 pm (UTC)
As my yard is full of these I am so glad to hear they are not aggressive.
Jan. 1st, 2007 03:10 am (UTC)
Another pic
Found this site because I was curious of what this guy was called too.

Here is my pic. I got a little pose!
Jan. 1st, 2007 05:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Another pic
That's beautiful! Welcome to the site--surf around, I think it's pretty fun.
Apr. 7th, 2009 01:16 am (UTC)
Re: Another pic
Thanks for stealing my image you talentless fool. <3
Jun. 28th, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
Golden Digger Wasp
We have been having a blast with these sweet ladies around our office - there are always about 3-5 of them doing a heck of a lot more work than any employee I have LOL. They have truly become the main attraction - moreso each year they show up. They are industrious and interesting to watch and strangely curious but in a very non-threatening way. Have a good one! Sandy in Asheville, NC
Aug. 15th, 2007 06:58 am (UTC)
Does this mean they wont sting you? we have many at my work, they look pretty scary when im mowing the lawn!
Aug. 15th, 2007 09:37 am (UTC)
I'm sure they would sting you (the females, anyway) if they were bothered. It takes more to bother some stinging insects than others is all.
Nov. 4th, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)
bit by a digger wasp....twice
Twice I've been bit on my foot while pulling weeds the past couple years. Each time it felt like an electric shock...I suspected a wasp but couldn't see one after the bite. Had minimal swelling afterwards and the pain wore off after 24 hours.

Today I saw a digger wasp crawl into a hole not 12 inches from where I was bit last year. It's probably the spawn of last year's critter that got me. I think I'm going to end that lineage today.
Aug. 2nd, 2008 04:14 pm (UTC)
Re: bit by a digger wasp....twice
why don't you put on some shoes?
Aug. 25th, 2007 03:04 am (UTC)
I should have checked the 'net more thoroughly. I had one of these "chase" me last year. I ended up killing it. I just had another one in my yard today, and it ended up with the same fate.
I now know they were probably more curious than aggressive so the "chase" was more my perception, but the hole was in an area where my kids frequent.
Next one(s) will be spared, and the kids educated to observe and keep at a safe distance while doing so.
We'll have more, the soil and prey are present and perfect for them.
Aug. 12th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
golden digger wasp
do these have a large mound of soil with a penny sized hole at the end of the mound. I have something very large in my yard that is digging lots of holes and a mound of soil about 2 to 3 inches high?
Apr. 19th, 2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
bug on ass
in the middle of the summer last year, i was outside with my girlfriend and some other friends. i had my shirt off and so did all the other guys,and we were wearing our trousers very low, with our boxers showing. i was wearing particularly brightly colored boxers and lots of bugs seemed to be attracted 2 them. i kept killing them because they were getting fuckin annoying, and some were biting me. then this huge bug landed on my ass. it was fuckin massive, and my girlfriend pointed it out 2 me. i went to knock it off and stamp on it when i saw the size of it, and i thought it was going 2 hurt me, so one of my friends whacked it 4 me, leavin a huge stain all over my ass. i looked it up here 2 try and identify it because i thought that we might have a wasps nest near us. i think that this is what it looked like. next time one lands on me, ill just knock it off and let it go, unlike other bugs that land on me, which will b instantly squished.
Jul. 28th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC)
Re: bug on ass
You're an idiot. You shouldn't be outside with your butt hanging out. You wanna be thugs think it's some kind of turn on for females. Only the stupid ones. Oh yeah, get a vocabulary.
Jul. 3rd, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
Re: bug on ass
Whatever moral high ground you were seeking, you failed to achieve by the very nature of this comment.
Aug. 24th, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)
I saw one of these today dragging a katydid, it was massive. I tried to catch it but it got into its hole in time. I know where the nest is now, though, so I'll keep a look out for the bug.
Jul. 17th, 2010 01:00 am (UTC)
these are truely amazing creatures and no u shouldnt leave your ass hangin out especially if u already noticed bugs continuously (yeah i spelled it wrong) landing on it, pull your goddamn pants up BOY
Jul. 18th, 2010 12:29 am (UTC)
Golden Digger Wasp
I've lived and gardened in Vermont all of my life. This is the first time I have ever seen one of these wasps in my garden. The wasps were about 1 1/2" long, and definitely intimidating. Glad to know they are not aggressive. One was digging in between my front steps, which are concrete! Pretty strong insect! I planted aclepius(sp?) for the first time this year, and I noticed two of these insects feeding on that.
Oct. 25th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
Can this be one?
There was one just like this in my front yard. The only difference really was that the legs were black and the wings were a shiny black and longer than the body. Also, I have a picture of the pile where it burried a grasshopper, and there are Lion Ant holes around it. Any help would be great. Thanks from Florida.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


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