Although they look intimidating, the Pigeon Tremex is a horntail and is not naturally aggressive, unlike wasps. The thick, long 'stinger' is actually an ovipositor. Females have ovipositors that can be as long as their entire body. The ovipositor looks similar to a needle and is used by the female to inject her eggs through the tough bark of trees. This is a measure of safety for the eggs, helping ensure they hatch and are not eaten by birds or other insects patrolling the tree for dinner. In addition to the syringe-like ovipositor on females, both genders have an pointy, hard spine at the tip of their abdomen that resembles a spear tip. This gives females the appearance of having two 'stingers'.
They are commonly seen in hardwood forests and are a familiar sight to lumberjacks. The female dies immediately after laying her last egg, leaving her ovipositor stuck in the tree and becoming a potential meal herself.
There is only one Tremex species in North America. The larvae are actually victims of parasitism despite the measures the female takes to safeguard them. Female Ichneumon Wasps lay their own eggs in the bark also using an ovipositor of their own. When the wasp larvae hatch, they slowly eat the Pigeon Tremex larvae. Surviving larvae emerge as adults in the fall.
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Common name: Pigeon Tremex
Scientific Name: Tremex columba
Other Names: Horntail Wasp
Adult Size (Length): 18mm to 37mm (0.71in to 1.46in) COMPARE
Identifying Colors: black; yellow; brown; red; orange
General Description: spike, tail, stinger, flying
North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Nebraska; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; New Brunswick; Nova Scotia; Quebec; Mexico
* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.