A large solitary wasp, the great golden digger wasp occurs throughout Missouri. It is often seen feeding busily from flowers. The abdomen is orange or rusty-red in front and black at the end. The head and thorax have golden hairs. Like all solitary wasps, this species is not aggressive to humans.
Habitat and Conservation
This species does much that endears them to gardeners: They catch grasshoppers, which commonly eat food and ornamental plants; they aerate the soil and improve water’s ability to soak into the ground with their digging; and they pollinate flowers.
They are not aggressive. With their impressive size and busy activity, these wasps are fun to watch. Many famous naturalists have written entertaining, fascinating accounts of this and other digger wasps; those of Howard Ensign Evans (“Wasp Farm”) and J. Henri Fabre are highly recommended.
Their pollination of flowers helps flowers to reproduce.
Their predation on insects helps control those populations.
They are eaten by many predators, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and more. They even provide a living for the humble parasites that specialize in them.
This wasp, in the genus Sphex, is a member of the family Sphecidae (SFEE-ci-dee), the thread-waisted wasps or digger wasps, which are all solitary. Relatives include mud daubers and the very closely related great black wasp (S. pensylvanicus). Solitary wasps do not have the aggressive defensive behaviors of yellowjackets and other wasps that nest in colonies.