Great Black Wasp – Sphex pensylvanica

Great Black Wasp – Sphex pensylvanica
Order Hymenoptera – Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies / Family Sphecidae
Live adult female wasp photographed at DuPage County Illinois. Size: 35mm

This predatory wasp generally preys on katydids (family Tettigoniidae) in genera Microcentrum and Scudderia. A female wasp will dig a burrow and provision it with 1-3 insects, laying a single egg upon each one. When the eggs hatch, the resulting larvae feed on the still-living but paralyzed host. This female wasp is the largest I've ever seen – I've measured it accurately at 35mm (males are smaller). It actually makes a rustling sound when it flies, the wings are so large – reminiscent of the sound a mantis makes when lumbering into the air. Awesome!

I often wonder why this wasp's compound eyes do not present anything but a flat, glossy surface. Many bees in the Hymenoptera family Halictidae, mantids, butterflies, dragonflies and many other arthropods' eyes exhibit "pupils" or other geometric or refractory patterns.

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.
Insects & Spiders | Bees & Wasps Index | Bees & Wasps