The non-aggressive Pigeon Tremex looks like a wasp, but is actually a horntail, which explains one of those two 'stingers'.
Although it looks 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. This ovipositor looks similar to a needle and is used by the female to inject her eggs through the tough bark of trees. This offers a measure of protection 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'.
This species is commonly seen in hardwood forests and is 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 Pigeon Tremex larvae emerge as adults in the fall.
Scientific Name: Tremex columba
Other Name(s): Horntail Wasp
Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 18mm to 37mm (0.70in to 1.44in)
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Ant, Bee, and Wasp Anatomy
Antennae: Ants and Bees both have a pair of antennae on the head that senses their surroundings.
Head: The head contains the insect's compound eyes, antennae, and mandibles.
Thorax: Contains various vital parts such as the aorta and nervous system.
Abdomen: Contains various organs including the heart, gut, venom glands, and anus.
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.