Skip to main content

NC State Extension

Digger Wasps

  • Common Name: Digger Wasp
  • General Category: Parasitoid
  • Taxonomic Classification: Hymenoptera: Scoliidae
  • Scientific Name: Scolia dubia

Description

These are large, hairy, dark-colored wasps with dark wings and characteristic bright colors on the ends of their abdomens. They are parasitoids of lawn root-feeding grubs such as Green June Beetles. Digger wasps are often seen feeding on flower nectar, as well as flying over lawns searching for mates. If lawns have large numbers of grubs feeding on the roots, there may be large numbers of digger wasps. Once they locate a grub, they will dig down in the soil to find it, paralyze it with a sting, then make a small chamber and lay an egg on the grub. The egg hatches into a grub-like larva that feeds on the beetle grub like a leech until it finally consumes so much of the host that it kills it. These wasps are solitary, so after mating females hunt for and paralyze grubs on their own. Although these wasps look scary, they are harmless unless grabbed and forced to sting in self defense.

Scolia wasp adult June Beetle adult and larva

Identification

Review the images for tips on how to identify these predators.

Adults

Very dark body and hairy bodies. The end of the abdomens are rust red with two yellow spots. The wings are not folded up accordion-style at rest as they are in paper wasps. The ends of the wings have many fine folds or wrinkles.

Larvae

Because the grub-like larvae develop by feeding on paralyzed beetle grubs underground, they cannot be seen unless a grub is purposely dug up.

Value in Pest Management

Digger wasps can contribute significantly to natural control of lawn grub populations, and are therefore a valuable presence in urban areas. They are not sold commercially.

Origin and Distribution

Native, throughout the United States.

Discover Life – Scolia dubia

For More Information