×
BugFinder Insects by State Spiders Butterflies & Moths Bees, Ants, & Wasps Beetles All Bugs Videos (YouTube)

Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)


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




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



 Updated: 9/8/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




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 using her antennae and 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 exhibited the same repetitive '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 create. If some meals are stolen by birds, they do not realize that they are short on insects compared to tunnels.

With such gorgeous orange and black coloration, mild demeanor, and interesting behaviors, the Great Golden Digger Wasp is one to admire, not destroy. Perhaps a careful observer will discover even more fascinating things about this species.


General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Sphecidae [ View More ]
          Genus: Sphex [ View More ]
            Species: ichneumoneus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Descriptors
Scientific Name: Sphex ichneumoneus
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 15mm to 23mm (0.59in to 0.90in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, orange
Descriptors: flying, orange black butt, wasp, bee
Relative Size Comparison
Lo: 15mm | Hi: 23mm
Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
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
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 above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns.
Territorial Map
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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


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, & Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order because they share many similarities.