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.


  1. It is a beautiful wasp. It's a shame most people seem to think Raid and not beauty when it comes to wasps.

  2. I know what you mean. Unfortunately my husband falls into the "raid" category. He seems to feel that the only good wasp, is a dead wasp. He has such a fear of getting stung that he has a hard time leaving these amazing creatures alone. I've finally got him convinced if they are in the garden to not bother them. He is now only mass murdering the ones he calls "dumb enough" to build in his implement sheds. he is a work in progress...

  3. Ah! I'm in Rockport, Massachusetts.

    I just came across my first digger which is burrowing holes all around a bush. Unfortunately, it is at an apartment complex and too close to the walkway. From what I've read, I will ask the management to leave it be. The solitary breeders seldom sting. I'm enjoying the process of it bringing in a leaf piece and digging the hole. It's amazing to watch.

    If I love watching Mother Nature, can I call myself a Naturalist?