Wasp Week Day 7: Great Golden Digger Wasp

Great Golden Digger Wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2007-08-18

Let’s finish wasp week with the Great Golden Digger Wasp, one of the larger and more impressive local NYC wasps (though sadly not one of my more impressive photographs. I am looking into improving my camera equipment.) This is actually a very widespread wasp across North America, and is commonly seen in gardens and parks.

The Great Golden Digger is a solitary (non-social) wasp that lays its eggs in burrows in the earth. It’s not very aggressive, but like most wasps will sting if you try to handle it. Adults feed on nectar but prey on other insects to provide food for their young, especially grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets. Thus like many other wasps they’re quite beneficial to gardeners and farmers, and should be left alone when encountered. Don’t bother them and they won’t bother you.

Brown wasp on white flower

One Response to “Wasp Week Day 7: Great Golden Digger Wasp”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    When the time comes for egg laying, the wasp Sphex builds a burrow for the purpose and seeks out a cricket which she stings in such a way as to paralyze but not kill it. She drags the cricket into the burrow, lays her eggs alongside, closes the burrow, then flies away, never to return. In due course, the eggs hatch and the wasp grubs feed off the paralyzed cricket, which has not decayed, having been kept in the wasp equivalent of deep freeze. To the human mind, such an elaborately organized and seemingly purposeful routine conveys a convincing flavor of logic and thoughtfulness — until more details are examined. For example, the wasp’s routine is to bring the paralyzed cricket to the burrow, leave it on the threshold, go inside to see that all is well, emerge, and then drag the cricket in. If the cricket is moved a few inches away while the wasp is inside making her preliminary inspection, the wasp, on emerging from the burrow, will bring the cricket back to the threshold, but not inside, and will then repeat the preparatory procedure of entering the burrow to see that everything is all right. If again the cricket is removed a few inchies while the wasp is inside, once again she will move the cricket up to the threshold and re-enter the burrow for a final check. The wasp never thinks of pulling the cricket straight in. On one occasion this procedure was repeated forty times, always with the same result. (Woodridge, 1963, p. 82)

    Google for sphexish for extended riffs on the concept of mental rigidity.

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