Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)

Order: Hymenoptera (hy-men-OP-ter-a) (Info)
Family: Sphecidae
Genus: Sphex
Species: ichneumoneus


This bug has been reportedly found in the following regions:

Vincent, Alabama
Barling, Arkansas
Marion, Arkansas
Fullerton, California
San Diego, California
Santa Monica, California
Tustin, California
Brooksville, Florida
Tennille, Georgia
Waycross, Georgia
Bartelso, Illinois
Galva, Illinois
La Grange Park, Illinois
Winthrop Harbor, Illinois
Atalissa, Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
Slater, Iowa
Yale, Iowa
Baldwin City, Kansas
Benton, Kentucky
Madison, Maine
Scarborough, Maine
Skowhegan, Maine
East Brookfield, Massachusetts
Framingham, Massachusetts (2 reports)
Ipswich, Massachusetts
Worcester, Massachusetts
New Baltimore, Michigan
New London, Minnesota
Cole Camp, Missouri
Leslie, Missouri
Bow, New Hampshire
Manchester, New Hampshire
Branchville, New Jersey
Albany, New York
Endicott, New York
Wappingers Falls, New York
Chardon, Ohio
Pleasant Hill, Ohio
Gold Hill, Oregon
Redmond, Oregon
Austin, Texas
Denton, Texas
Charlottesville, Virginia
Fredericksburg, Virginia
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
Show all

Members' Notes:


On Aug 3, 2015, whitehorse9mark from Winthrop Harbor, IL wrote:

I found one of these on my garbage can. I assume it was injured because it was lying on its back moving it's legs around trying to flip over. I have never seen this wasp before in the 20 years I have lived here. Unfortunately it freaked me out and I killed it. Had I known it wasn't aggressive I would have flipped it over and let it go on its way. I hope to see another one though. What a beautiful wasp.


On Mar 4, 2015, Papa2Girls from Tustin, CA wrote:

This guy was very mellow, and was just foraging for food. I was never able to see it's nest, since the garden is very full. He was not aggressive at all. I was doing some macro photography, and watched him searching various flower clusters, so I set up on one I thought he'd not been too yet and waited............

I'm sharing an image here that I got.


On Sep 2, 2012, PsyKo from Charlottesville, VA wrote:

Thought it was a cicada killer at first and took a vid of it. Someone on youtube gave me the correct name which landed me here. Only thing that throws me is mine is huge, 2-3 inches which seems larger then everything I see about it. Interesting critter to watch though. Heres the vid if anyone wants to see it


On Aug 8, 2011, peyasis from Osoyoos,
Canada wrote:

I live in Osoyoos, BC, Canada and until this year have never noticed this wasp before. I have a fairly large Blue Sea Holly plant in my back garden and it always attracts honey bees, yellow jackets and European paper wasps in abundance! In the last two weeks I noticed these LARGE bugs crawling around on the flowers. When I got close I saw that it was some type of large wasp (about 3 times the size of the others). It took me an hour on the "net" to find anything that looked like what I was seeing. They really don't like you getting too close before getting agitated or flying off. The only picture I got was from about 5 ft. away.


On May 28, 2011, shadowspawn from Austin, TX wrote:

I've been watching these for a while, but this was the first time I sat while doing work and really watched them. One, she was busy moving small river pebbles around., I weighed the biggest and it was 2 grams. She also would make a quick "buzz" that was almost like a chirp. It wasn't from the wings, she would do it from time to time at random. Surprisingly loud. It was very enjoyable to watch.


On Sep 6, 2010, dmith7777 from East Brookfield, MA wrote:

I have noticed they love to dig holes in hot sunny areas with no shade, fine dry soil, and typically when you find one hole you will find many others in close proximity, They seem non aggressive and are facinating to watch, If you watch long enough you will see them carrying dead large insects in thier holes to feed thier young.


On Aug 10, 2010, ejhonda from Slingerlands, NY wrote:

(Albany NY) We have seen these wasps appear in the grassy area of a parking island within our corporate park for the last 3 years. Fascinating things to watch. Intimidating looks, definitely, but we can stand right next to the curb and watch their activity without fear. Seem to appear in late June and disappear sometime in mid- to late-August.


On Aug 5, 2010, murrmi2 from Redmond, OR wrote:

The Great Golden wasps definitely make a loud buzz when they fly and are incredibly intimidating. According to others, they sting very little, but their bright Orange coloration and extra large body size, again, make this wasp very intimidating. They seem to like the Thyme plant my wife has growing out-front of our house. We live in the high desert area of Central Oregon and this is the first year we have seen these impressive insects.


On Aug 23, 2009, Bonnie_Russell from Tolland, CT wrote:

After watching every July for "my" great golden diggers to appear, I was thrilled to see their tell tale holes between the pavers of my front walk this summer. They had missed a year, presumably because my husband had used so much salt on the walk over the icy winter and I thought I had seen the last of my gentle giants.

But here they were! There were three of them, busily tending to their digging and foraging. I learned on this site that the adults eat flower nectar. I had assumed that they ate ants, or ant larvae, because when the diggers appear, the ant colonies that build nests among the pavers disappear within days!

Early one evening a few years ago, I heard a harsh "craawk" sound outside my front door. I looked out and there on the newell post perched a ... read more


On Aug 20, 2009, laurielynn from Endicott, NY wrote:

These wasps started building in our side yard. They don't bother anyone. My 7 month old lab noses around their holes and they don't bother her. They just fly around us. My husband mows over them every week and they don't care. They are just gentle giants but shy towards the camera. I can't get them to sit still long enough to get a great picture.


On Aug 18, 2009, kellysvixen from New London, MN wrote:

I noticed that Minnesota was not on the list of states that this wasp has been observed in. I have been watching these magnificent insects for three years in my yard. I look for them every year and have not been dissapointed. Even this summer when it has been cooler than usual they are here. I just watched one for a while on my Zuchini plants. I love it when they watch me.


On Aug 15, 2009, ottawassprite from Ottawa,
Canada wrote:

This is one of the more intimidating members of the wasp family, but it really is a sheep in wolf's clothing. We have had this species nest at both our front and back door for the past 6 years, with only one single sting. That was my bad... I stepped on him!
Last year I brought several specimens (alive) into my niece's class to show her classmates. I had several of them crawling over both me and my niece showing just how docile this particular species is. I do not recommend this to everyone as if panicked or startled these wasps do pack quite a sting.
I can confirm them as being in my area of Ottawa, Ontario. I can not give the zip code as Canada does not use zip codes.


On Jun 15, 2009, frogfanatic from Santa Monica, CA wrote:

i was walking towards the door of my house when i saw a barely alive insect on the ground. i had no idea what it was and when i realized it was a wasp it scared me. i have never seen anything like that here in Santa Monica, California. so i scooped it up with a cup and brought it in and researched it. i found out what it was and well, here i am.


On Aug 27, 2008, shire from Frankford, DE wrote:

There was a similar wasp in my back yard- but it's all red and long. Check my picture. Creepy Creepy.. First I saw it, it was pulling the big spider up the fence.. eeeeee, well it was too ineresting -so I ran for the camera. What is the name of this one? thanks


On Oct 27, 2007, Loess01 from Atalissa, IA wrote:

They do seem to have the disturbing habit of digging their holes in high-traffic areas. As long as you're not freaked out by wasps, this isn't a problem.

I haven't found any way yet to discourage them from digging where people and pets are nearby. So far no one's gotten stung, but I'm sorry to say several of these big wasps have met an untimely end because at times they do like to get a little too up close and personal with people who aren't comfortable around them.


On Sep 3, 2007, greenham from Baldwin City, KS wrote:

We had a great golden digger wasp start making her nest on our patio. At first we tried to deter her by blocking up the hole but after three times I figured that her determination should allow her to stay. I then got completely facinated by her and her movements. After looking her up I became caught up in watching her and have been recording her patterns. Over three days she has dug a very deep hole and has so far provisioned it with at least 8 grasshoppers. She has been facinating to watch and learn about.


On Jul 10, 2007, maktunghi from Branchville, NJ wrote:

We spotted this bug in a small garden and were initially alarmed by its size and fierce looking appearance. They dug several penny sized holes in the soil and appeared very busy scurrying around. Considered eradicating them but decided not to do so after reading your description of them as a beneficial bug and not agressive. As a "camera bug", will try to get some close up shots of these fascinating bugs.


On Sep 2, 2006, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

Common throughout north America, digger wasps lay their eggs in burrows that they construct.

They look fierce, but rarely sting, and are quite curious about people and pets.

The adults eat nectar from various flowers and the larvae feed upon insects captured by the parent and stored in the burrow for their nourishnent.

Often seen flying low across the lawns searching for suitable insects for the burrow. They spend the daylight hours searching and taking nectar, flying to roost in the evenings.

Considered a beneficial insect because of the type of insects it preys on.