Paralyzing Parasitic Predator in Framingham!

Great Golden Killer Wasp
Sphex ichneumoneus. Great Golden Digger Wasp. (View large size on Flickr to see the golden hairs on her head and thorax.) Although very large and very scary, this wasp is not aggressive towards humans, and is actually beneficial for gardeners. It's sting is said to cause very little pain (note that I didn't test this out myself.) The solitary wasp's venom is very effective at paralyzing grasshoppers and katydids. What I first thought was a green leaf on the ground is actually a paralyzed katydid that this female wasp dragged to the hole she has dug for her eggs.

Preparing the death chamber
The Great Golden Digger Wasp goes down to prepare a chamber to contain her victim. The insect is completely paralyzed by her venom, and unable to move his limbs at all. Escape is not an option.

dragged to his death
The Great Golden Digger Wasp is pulling the paralyzed insect down the hole. She will lay an egg in the katydid's chest, then seal him into a chamber off the main tunnel. The insect will live for days as it's frozen body serves as an incubator for the egg. After the egg hatches, the Katydid will be eaten alive - from the inside out - by the larvae. Did you ever see the movie Alien? Well, this wasp MUST be the source of that story! That terrible monster (who lives in my nightmares to this day) was just being a conscientious parent, like the Great Golden Digger Wasp here. Both provide fresh food to their helpless offspring until they can fend for themselves.

If this doesn't prove my theory that the wonders of nature can be found in your own backyard, then nothing ever will! This wasp might be common, but that does not make it uninteresting. A similar revelation last month made me vow not to dismiss or ignore common, "run-of-the-mill" birds (or animals) ever again. It was the Great Black-Backed Gull and shark incident that triggered my epiphany. I have always been thrilled by osprey and owls and eagles, but I wouldn't even look up to see a gull. Gulls are everywhere, after all. Gulls are in parking lots and landfills and other smelly places. Gulls are gross scavengers. That is what many people think, including me until recently. But it is not true. Now I know that gulls are large, beautiful birds of prey; just as complex and interesting as American Eagles. The only real difference between the two species is that one is rare and the other is everywhere!

And now a wasp in my yard! What next? A bear at the birdfeeder?


  1. Right, right! - we overlook so much just because it is "common" - I agree, and more and more I try to pay attention to those common things, because we never know when there will be something new to learn!

  2. Chris, you're not an elitist about birding! I've learned a lot about rare birds AND everyday birds from your blog - and enjoyed every bit of it! If I can explore the 'mysteries of the mundane' with half your eloquence, I'd be satisfied!


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