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Giant Ichneumon Wasp (Megarhyssa spp)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Giant Ichneumon Wasp



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The intimidating female Ichneumon Wasp has a tremendously long ovipositor that is used for egg-laying, not for stinging.



Updated: 10/01/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
There are several different species of Ichneumon Wasp, each with its own color variations. Some are black and yellow, others reddish and striped. All have the Ichneumon Wasp body shape: a thin waist and an abdomen longer than the rest of the body. Members of the family Ophion have abdomens that are shorter than Megarhyssa, but they are still long in comparison to more familiar wasps.

Females may have a long, needle-like ovipositor which is often mistaken as a stinger. The sturdy ovipositor acts like a syringe, injecting eggs deep into wood (live trees, or logs) where the larvae will feed on any other insect larvae already deposited there. It is not uncommon to see females poking around wood in an attempt to find a good place to deposit her eggs. Males do not have the ovipositor so their abdomen ('tails') are shorter.

Giant Ichneumons tend to live in wooded areas and throughout all of North America, though they do stay away from the arid and hot desert regions and scarcely treed central plains.

Ichneumon adults do not eat at all. Larvae are parasites of Pigeon Horntail larvae, another type of wasp that deposits eggs in wood. The Ichneumon larvae will hatch and feed on the Horntail Wasp larvae.

Variations of the Ichneumon include the Eastern Giant Ichneumon, the Lunar Giant Ichneumon and the Western Giant Ichneumon. These can all be found in their own habitats across Canada, the United States of America and Mexico. This is truly a North American insect!




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect stinger icon


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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Ichneumonidae
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          Genus: Megarhyssa
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            Species: spp
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Megarhyssa spp
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 10mm to 19mm (0.39" to 0.74")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; yellow; black; orange; red, white
Descriptors: long, tail, stinger, stinging

Giant-Ichneumon-Wasp Video(s)




A female Ichneumon Wasp with her long ovipositor (not a stinger).
Mating Ichneumon Wasps while the female holds future offspring meal.
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Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 10mm (0.4in) and 19mm (0.7in)
Lo: 10mm
Md: 14.5mm
Hi: 19mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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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
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Giant Ichneumon Wasp may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects 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. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Giant Ichneumon Wasp. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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