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Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Great Golden Digger Wasp.


 Updated: 8/10/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org



  Great Golden Digger Wasp  
Picture of Great-Golden-Digger-Wasp
Picture of Great-Golden-Digger-Wasp Picture of Great-Golden-Digger-WaspPicture of Great-Golden-Digger-WaspPicture of Great-Golden-Digger-Wasp


The Great Golden Digger Wasp is a benign, gentle wasp currently being studied by scientists for its behavioral responses.





Despite its vivid alarm coloration, the Great Golden Digger Wasp is not an aggressive species of wasp. They tend to mind their own business and can be found sipping on flower nectar during the summer, but in the early spring, females prepare to lay eggs.

Females will dig into loose soil and create many deep tunnels. When established, she then covers them to hide their existence. A female will track a small insect and sting them to paralyze them, but not to kill them. Once the prey is immobile, she will clutch it antennae and her mandible (mouth parts) in order to fly it back to the tunnels. While in flight with her prey, it is not uncommon to see birds like robins or tanagers attempt to steal her meal from her by chasing her until she drops it. No other known species of Digger Wasp is known to be harassed by birds in this way. If the female is successful in returning to her tunnels with her catch, she will place the paralyzed prey aside to quickly inspect a tunnel. If it looks like it's still intact, she will pull the paralyzed insect, head first, down into it. She then lays an egg on the insect, exits the tunnel and covers it over again. She repeats this process for each tunnel. Unlike other wasps, she does not actively defend her nest.

Once hatched, the wasp larvae will feed on the living, yet immobile, insect until they are developed enough to leave the tunnel lair in the summer. Eventually, the parasitism of the paralyzed insect kills it.

Scientists are studying the behavior of this unique species. Great Golden Digger Wasps seem to display a type of internal programming. If their insect prey is moved away from the tunnel while the female inspects it, she will emerge, relocate it, bring it back to the tunnel entrance and start the inspection all over again. Every female showed the same 'start inspection again' behavior when tested in that way.

Females have also shown that they do not keep a tally of how many insects they catch versus how many tunnels they created. If some are stolen by birds, they do not realize that they are short on insects compared to tunnels.

With such gorgeous coloration, mild demeanor and interesting behaviors, the Great Golden Digger Wasp is one to watch, not destroy. Perhaps a careful observer will discover even more fascinating things about this species.
Basic Information
Common Name: Great Golden Digger Wasp
Scientific Name: Sphex ichneumoneus
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar


General Identification
Size (Adult; Length): 15mm to 23mm (0.59in to 0.90in)
Colorwheel Graphic
Identifying Colors: black, orange
Additional Descriptors: flying




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Sphecidae
Genus: Sphex
Species: ichneumoneus


Ant, Bee and Wasp Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of both a bee and an ant insect
1
Antennae: Ants and Bees both have a pair of antennae on the head that senses their surroundings.
2
Head: The head contains the insect's compound eyes, antennae, and mandibles.
3
Thorax: Contains various vital parts such as the aorta and nervous system.
4
Abdomen: Contains various organs including the heart, gut, venom glands, and anus.
5
Legs: Ants and Bees have three pairs of legs attached to the thorax (center-body section).
NOTE: Ants, Bees and Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order because they share many similarities.


Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed below as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections below indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico


Territorial Area Map (Visual Reference Guide)
The map below showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Great Golden Digger Wasp may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data can be useful in seeing concentrations of a particular species over the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some species are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America.
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
State of Alabama graphic
State of Arizona graphic
State of Arkansas graphic
State of California graphic
State of Colorado graphic
State of Delware graphic
State of Florida graphic
State of Georgia graphic
State of Idaho graphic
State of Illinois graphic
State of Indiana graphic
State of Iowa graphic
State of Kansas graphic
State of Kentucky graphic
State of Louisiana graphic
State of Maine graphic
State of Maryland graphic
State of Michigan graphic
State of Minnesota graphic
State of Mississippi graphic
State of Missouri graphic
State of Montana graphic
State of Nebraska graphic
State of Nevada graphic
State of New England graphic
State of New Jersey graphic
State of New Mexico graphic
State of New York graphic
State of North Carolina graphic
State of North Dakota graphic
State of Ohio graphic
State of Oklahoma graphic
State of Oregon graphic
State of Pennsylvania graphic
State of South Carolina graphic
State of South Dakota graphic
State of Tennessee graphic
State of Texas graphic
State of Utah graphic
State of Virginia graphic
State of Washington graphic
State of West Virginia graphic
State of Wisconsin graphic
State of Wyoming graphic
Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic


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