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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Giant flying wasp type thing

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Question
Wasp?
Wasp?  
I live in the North Dallas area and have this giant wasp looking thing flying around my patio doors. It's huge and my dog wants to get at it. I'm afraid to go outside and I certainly don't want him out there trying to get it and possibly get stung. Can you tell me what it is? It looks to be at least 3" long and pretty beefy.

Answer
Dear Debbie - This is a wasp in the family Sphecidae known as the cicada killer wasp - see http://tinyurl.com/lntmn5d for an image. Although fearsome in appearance, they are not aggressive towards humans, and are interested only in procuring cicadas to feed their larvae in the burrows they dig in sandy soil. Years ago, on one of my visits to Ft. Sam Houston, there was quite a colony of these in large soil-filled planters at the entrance to the main PX facility. I saw scores of these wasps fly within a few feet of people entering and leaving the building, completely ignoring them. See http://tinyurl.com/nx5ymf6 for detailed information on these fascinating insects.

Hope this helps,
Saugy

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad

Expertise

Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.

Experience

21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Organizations
Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

Publications
American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

Education/Credentials
B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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