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Pigeon Tremex (Tremex columba)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Pigeon Tremex

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The non-aggressive Pigeon Tremex looks like a wasp, but is actually a horntail, which explains one of those two 'stingers'.

Updated: 01/05/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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 a 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.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Spiny / Spiky insect icon
Insect stinger icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Siricidae
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          Genus: Tremex
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            Species: columba

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Tremex columba
Other Name(s): Horntail Wasp
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 18mm to 37mm (0.70" to 1.45")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; yellow; brown; red; orange
Descriptors: spike; tail; stinger; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 18mm (0.7in) and 37mm (1.5in)
Lo: 18mm
Md: 27.5mm
Hi: 37mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Pigeon Tremex 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 Pigeon Tremex. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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