All About The Great Black Wasp

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Introduction to the great black wasp-Sphex pensylvanicus

The great black wasp or the Sphex pensylvanicus is a generally solitary insect that is known for its large wings and back end. It is typically black or dark brownish in color and can be up to 2 inches long. These wasps are not aggressive and will only sting if they feel threatened.

However, an interesting fact about the great black wasp is that they can actually paralyze their prey with a sting! Keep reading to understand everything about this species of wasps!

Types of wasps

great black wasp

There are predominantly two types of wasp species. The first one is the social type of wasp, and the second is solitary. While social wasps can live in groups or colonies of over ten thousand wasps, solitary wasps, as the name suggests, go through life by themselves.

The great black wasp belongs to the second classification, and you will generally find these wasps flying around by themselves rather than in a swarm of companion wasps!

How to go about with the identification of the great black wasp?

The great black wasp is a large black wasp species that is usually found in the Northern parts of America. These insects are typically about an inch and a half in length, making them one of the larger wasps you will encounter. They have long legs, a small head, and a stout body.

They are quite easy to identify because of their black coloration and markings on the thorax. Adult females are much larger than adult males, and they have a distinct black and yellow pattern on their bodies. These wasps are not really known for their aggressive behavior, and they will sting humans if they feel threatened.

Diet, prey, habitat, and behavior of the great black wasp

The great black wasp feeds on nectar and other prey insects.

The great black wasp generally has a positive image due to its beneficial role as a predator of pest insects. However, there is one major thing to be afraid of when it comes to these wasps – their sting.

Female adults consume lots of high-energy food, primarily nectar from surrounding flowers, and they hunt aggressively for prey. In addition, the venom in their sting can be very painful.

Further, the great black wasp is a solitary wasp that does not have colonies to defend. However, female wasps do build their nests when procreating. While the male sex of this species does not have the ability to sting anything, the female does, and it will exercise that ability to defend its nest and eggs.

Great black wasps live just below the surface of the ground. To get there, they dig. This is why these wasps are also referred to as

As far as the diet of these insects is concerned, they are subterranean and feed on prey located around their natural habitat, usually large insects such as grasshoppers, locusts, cicadas, and other “fleshy” insects. They paralyze their prey with a sting and then carry it back to the nest to feed the larvae.

Great black wasps also feed on nectar to fuel their bodies. Therefore, you will also find that these wasps generally live in areas that are rich in sources of nectar, like orchards and meadows.

Where can you find great black wasps, and when can you see them?

Great black wasps are generally at their most active in the months of July through September. In these months, you will find these buzzing bugs hovering around sources of nectar in the open fields and gardens of Northern America.

At other times in the year, you might not even spot them frequently, given that they nest below the ground by digging soil and building their nests in the soil!

What are the life cycle and reproductive behavior of a great black wasp?

An adult great black wasp

Great black wasps have an interesting life cycle that spans from egg to adult. Females build nests out of the mud and lay eggs in them, which hatch into larvae. After mating, the female wasp will search for a food source for her larvae.

These larvae feed on paralyzed insects that the mother brings back to the nest. The larvae develop into pupae near the end of fall and overwinter until the following summer when prey and nectar are plentiful. Once the larvae have matured, they spin cocoons and pupate inside them. 

After a few weeks, the adults emerge from the cocoons and mate. The females then lay eggs, and the process starts over again. Males and females leave the nest when they reach adulthood.

The males go out in search of mates, while the mated females will start their own nests. These wasps are known to be very aggressive when it comes to defending their nests.

What is the lifespan of the great black wasp?

The average lifespan of a great black wasp is about twenty days unless it’s a queen great black wasp. The queen wasp generally lives for about a year.

How do great black wasps reproduce?

The manner of reproduction that great black wasps are extremely peculiar.

In the springtime, female black wasps will mate and then seek a food source for their young. Once they find a suitable place to nest, they will lay their eggs and provide food for their larvae until they pupate.

After mating, the female great black wasp will hibernate in the nest until she lays her eggs. The eggs are laid in the later months of summer, and the larvae that hatch from them will feed on paralyzed insects that the parents have provided.

The larva consumes about two to six Katydids or Grasshoppers before growing into an adult wasp.

One fact to prove that great black wasps are quite intelligent is that when constructing a nest to lay her eggs, the female wasp will create an individual chamber in the nest for each larva and then will go on to place one paralyzed insect for the larva to feed on when it wants to!

Do you need to be worried about great black wasps?

The great black wasp is a large, intimidating wasp that can cause alarm when it is seen. However, there is no need to worry. Great black wasps are not aggressive and will generally only sting humans if they feel threatened. They are beneficial to the environment as they help to control the populations of other pests.

If their presence alarms you, contact a professional who can safely remove them for you. Alternatively, simply move away from its general area rather than trying to get close to it.

Bear in mind that the sting of a great black wasp can be extremely painful, albeit very rare. Further, never try to disturb a great black wasp’s nest or its nesting site!

What is the territorial reach of a great black wasp?

The great black wasp is a large, black wasp that ranges throughout North America. It is also known as the giant black wasp or the American hornet. Recently, its range has expanded into New York and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

How are great black wasps a misunderstood species? How does it affect their conservation status?

These wasps are beneficial to the environment as they prey on other insects, such as caterpillars and grubs. However, researchers fear that the population of these wasps may decline in the future due to a lack of knowledge on their significant role in the ecosystem.

Great Black Wasps are important pollinators and help to regulate the populations of crop pests and other insects that carry human diseases. They are not considered endangered, but their conservation status could change if their natural habitat continues to be destroyed.

Are great black wasps helpful to the environment?

Yes, great black wasps are quite helpful for the environment! They perform a two-fold function in their natural habitats. To begin with, the great black wasp helps immensely in pollinating flowers and helping them reproduce effectively.

Additionally, the great black wasp is also known to kill insects that are considered to be pests for human beings. By destroying these pests, wasps ensure that plants and crops stay safe from being devoured by the pests and also prevent the spread of disease-causing bacteria that these pests spread.

Do great black wasps sting you, and if yes, why do these insects sting you?

A wasp sting.

Yes, great black wasps can sting. The way these wasps sting is by using the venomous stinger that allows them to paralyze their prey.

The reason great black wasps sting is to protect their colony. If you are near their nest, they may feel threatened and sting you as a way to defend their home.

How can you get rid of or kill great black wasps inside your house?

Be careful while killing great black wasps.

There are a few methods you can use to get rid of great black wasps if they have made their way to the interiors of your home.

Use an effective non-insecticidal spray.

One option is to purchase a non-insecticide spray from a home and garden store. These sprays are very effective in killing wasps and can be used both indoors and outdoors.

You can also call a professional exterminator to help get rid of the wasps for you if you notice too many in your house.

Use a swatting object.

In addition, if you encounter a great black wasp inside your house, you can try to get rid of it by swatting it with a shoe, phone book, or other heavy objects.

Guide the wasp out of your house

Alternatively, if you feel like a daredevil, simply guide the great black wasp fluttering its wings in your house out of your window. However, I must tell you that you should always be wearing protective clothing such as thick gloves and clothes that cover all your skin!

How can you get rid of or kill great black wasps outside your house?

There are two ways to eliminate a great black wasp nest- either by killing the wasps or removing the entire nest. If you choose to kill the wasps, it is best to do so when they are congregated on the outside of the nest.

You can use many methods, but using an insecticide is most effective. If you choose to remove the nest, it is important to do so before the wasps have had a chance to establish too many nests inside your house.

I have explained what you can do to get rid of wasps around your house below!

Cover your entire body

First and foremost, it is important to protect yourself from being stung. Wear long sleeves, pants, gloves, and a hat. The objective is to not get stung while you take action against the wasps around your house.

Use an effective wasp insecticide.

If you only have a few great black wasps, you can try to get rid of them by using an insecticide specifically designed to kill wasps and hornets and spraying it directly on them. You should use a spray that can eject the insecticide over a fairly long distance since you don’t want to be getting too close to the wasp!

Kill the entire nest or group of wasps.

Now, if you spot a full-blown nesting site from where these wasps are emerging, you should eliminate the entire nest. The simple way to do this is to simply spray the insecticide onto and into all openings of the nest at night. Once the poison percolates, it will automatically kill the wasps in the nest, along with any larvae!


Great black wasps are not wasps that you really need to worry about. In fact, these insects are quite important to the overall well-being of our environment. That said, you should always be careful with one of these around you. The last thing you want to address is a sting from this species of wasp!

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.