Thursday, December 17, 2009
Great Golden Digger Wasp
This beautiful wasp is the Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus). They can be found throughout most of the United States and into parts of Canada. The adults will be seen nectaring at flowers. This species seems to be very curious about people, they will fly away from the flower they are feeding at to check you out. It can be quite intimidating as they do their little fly-by, but try not to panic. This species is not known to be overly aggressive, so if you can stand still and patiently wait they will go back their business in short order. If you were to swat at it or otherwise antagonize it, you may get stung for your efforts.
This is one of the prettiest species of wasps I find in my yard. They are quite large at 1 1/4 inches and their thorax is covered in dense velvety golden hairs, from whence they get their common name. Their overall body color is a pretty shade of pumpkin orange and black. Quite the Halloween outfit I might say.
Their preferred habitats seems to be open fields and meadows as well as sandy areas nearby (sandy soil is easier to dig). After mating, the female will dig a vertical tunnel in the ground with chambers coming off of it. This habit of digging her brood chambers is also where their common name is derived from. In each chamber they will provision it with a some species of insect in the order Orthoptera (katydid's, crickets, etc.), and lay one egg on the provided paralyzed insect. When the egg hatches the larvae will feed on the provided food source. There will be one generation per year.