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Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Great Black Wasp

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The iridescent Great Black Wasp pollinates flowers while feeding itself, and removes plant pests while feeding its young making it a great friend to gardens and fields.

Updated: 05/15/2023; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Steely blue-black and large, the Great Black Wasp is a nectar and pollen eater. It can be seen visiting flowers in the hottest parts of the summer and early fall and helps pollinate plants. Every adult, however, was raised on a diet of Katydids and their relatives, Grasshoppers or Crickets.

Great Black Wasps are part of the Digger Wasp family, creating burrows in the soil. Adult female wasps hunt for insects after laying fertilized eggs in this underground nest. Each egg is laid in a tunnel and a Katydid or Cricket is placed next to it. Once the egg hatches, the emerging larva has an immediate food source and will devour the insect as it grows and develops. This juvenile diet helps keep the katydid, cricket and grasshopper populations under control in areas where Great Black Wasps are present.

Adult Great Black Wasps may look mean, but they are disinterested in humans and are not bothersome. That said, they can sting if mishandled or threatened, so looking is safer than touching.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Sphecidae
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          Genus: Sphex
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            Species: pensylvanicus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Sphex pensylvanicus
Other Name(s): Great Black Digger Wasp; Katydid Hunter, Steel-blue Cricket Hunter
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 20mm to 35mm (0.78" to 1.37")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; blue
Descriptors: large; blue; steel; shiny; flying; stinging; waist

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 20mm (0.8in) and 35mm (1.4in)
Lo: 20mm
Md: 27.5mm
Hi: 35mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Great Black 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 Great Black Wasp. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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