Great Golden Digger Wasp - Sphex ichneumoneus
Order Hymenoptera / Family Sphecidae
Bees & Wasps Index | Parasitica | Aculeata | Symphyta

Live adult female wasps photographed in the wild atDuPage County, Illinois.   Size: 21mm
Great Golden Digger Wasp - Sphex ichneumoneus
The digger wasps are solitary wasps; that is, they live independently rather than in social colonies and they do not depend on other members of a colony to share in the raising of young or the maintaining of a nest. There may be several females working independent nests in a small area and several males may be "swarming" in the vicinity.

Female great golden digger wasps dig nearly vertical burrows, with individual larval cells branching off horizontally. They provision each cell with a paralyzed cricket, katydid, or other related insect, then lay a single egg inside. The paralyzed insect remains alive and therefore fresh until the egg hatches and the resulting larva devours its mother's thoughtful gift.

Great Golden Digger Wasp - Sphex ichneumoneus
Adult female digger wasp feeds on flower nectar.
Adult digger wasps are robust, active insects that take nectar at many different varieties of flowers. I accurately measured the specimen pictured at 21mm, which to me is a rather large flying insect. Their wings are so large they actually make a rustling noise when they fly. I chased these wonderful critters around an giant patch of flowers for about 3 hours in the hot summer sun, and only managed the one good picture. They just don't hang around at any single bloom for very long, and are very wary of large animals such as myself.
Great Golden Digger Wasp - Sphex ichneumoneus

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Order Hymenoptera: Bees, Wasps, & Ants
Hymenoptera (Latin for membrane wing) is a vast assemblage of insects second only to Coleoptera (beetles) in the number of described species. Hymenoptera number some 115,000 species - of which 18,000 live in North America. Hymenopterans inhabit a wide variety of habitats, and show an incredible diversity in size, behavior, structure and color.
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