Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wasp Wednesday: Netelia

Notice: This post has been bombarded with comments from my dear friends overseas who insist that this kind of wasp occurs in their area (it very well may), and is often present in large numbers, and stings without provocation. Please understand I am not an authority on any species occurring outside of North America and cannot advise on how to keep your wasps at bay. Thank you for understanding.

Surprisingly, you may find some wasps at your porch light after dark. Among the more common nocturnal hymenopterans are ichneumon wasps in the subfamily Ophioninae. They are large, gangly wasps, usually uniformly orange in color with long antennae and large ocelli (“simple eyes” arranged in a triangle at the crown of the head, between the compound eyes). The ovipositor is very short, if it is even evident at all.

If you see a slightly smaller orange ichneumon with a longer ovipositor, it is likely to be a wasp in the genus Netelia, in the subfamily Tryphoninae. There are currently 73 species in six subgenera in North America north of Mexico (Carlson, 2009).

Unlike many ichneumon wasps, the females of Netelia can sting painfully if handled carelessly. The sting is mostly used to temporarily paralyze the large caterpillar hosts of these parasites. The female then lays an egg on the stunned victim, puncturing the body wall of the caterpillar in doing so. The egg is stalked, and in newly deposited eggs the coil of the stalk is elastic. It later becomes rigid. The egg holds firmly to the flexible exoskeleton of the host larva by means of a plug or anchor.

The larval wasp that hatches from the egg remains attached to it via specialized bristles on its posterior end. The wasp larva feeds on the caterpillar as an external parasite. Parasites that do not arrest the development of their host, but allow it to grow normally instead, are called “koinobionts.” Netelia ichneumons are placed in this category.

Below is an example of an ichneumon in the subfamily Ophioninae for comparison to Netelia.


Note in particular the absence of an obvious ovipositor at the end of the abdomen. More on the Ophioninae in a later edition of “Wasp Wednesday.” Look for both species coming to outdoor lighting near you!

Sources: Carlson, Robert W. 2009. "Database of Hymenoptera in America North of Mexico: Superfamily Ichneumonoidea, Family Ichneumonidae," Discover Life
Goulet, Henri and John T. Huber, eds. 1993. Hymenoptera of the World: An identification guide to families. Ottawa, Ontario: Agriculture Canada. 668 pp.
Kasparyan, D. R. 1989. Fauna of the USSR: Hymenoptera vol. III. Brill Archive. 414 pp.

88 comments:

  1. Hi BugEric,
    Thanks for the great photos and description of this huge red-orange wasp-waisted bug. It looked like a wasp to me but didn't act like the much smaller (and more aggressive) wasps back home. But it does act just like you described ... there are 6 bouncing around the light fixture early this morning, and many more buzzing around the palm fronds outside our hotel balcony (at the north end of Mazatlan). They are HUGE and seemed freaky so I'm glad to know that even though they are a wasp, they are unlikely to sting ... and I certainly don't plan on handling them!!

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    1. Polly: Mexico is a whole 'nother ballgame! You could be describing almost anything, including nocturnal social wasps that *do* sting. Netelia are not really that big, either....

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  2. I don't even have to be handling them carelessly,all i have to do is be by one of them and they sting me, and when they do sting me i have an allergic reaction to them and i do not have a reaction to any other kind of wasp or bee. just these ones. :(

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    1. I'm at a loss to explain that, Bobbi.

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    2. "I'm at a loss to explain that"
      Lol, I think that's partially what makes an entomologist. They don't attack without provocation. Then, when entomologists hear anecdotes of wild, unprovoked singing - it sounds "unusual".

      I say that with no disrespect, just slight envious comedy =)

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    3. Yes they sting me all the time. I'll be on the porch and I'll feel a sharp pain a then it swells up and it's super painful. It's like when the land they auto sting

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  3. I think I just got stung by one of these! I live in Southwest Ohio - do they live here? The sting burned for a few minutes but that's all. It hurt like crap when it happened, though! It flew/crawled up my pant leg and got me. After, it curled up and I flicked it off my pants onto the floor. It curled up tighter and I thought it was dying, then it got up and flew away! -.-

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    1. Same thing happened to me just now.

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  4. Hey Eric! Do you have any info on the toxin in their sting or their prevalence in the North East US, namely Massachusetts? I'd never run into these guys until the other night when one flew into the convertible, while driving, on my own street and proceeded to sting my girlfriend and myself. Any info or links you've got would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

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    1. Well, if the wasp was driving down the street, too, then all bets are off ;-) Seriously, though, that is unusual to have an unprovoked sting from *any* kind of wasp. They certainly are not dangerously venomous to the average healthy person or pet.

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  5. I have lived in Oklahoma for 9 years from Washington State. I was introduced to red wasps, and wood bees. Two years ago we started seeing these orange wasps. None of the locals had seen them before. I was watching T.V when I received my first ever wasp sting, and from the orange wasp. It is no where as painful as these weird flying beetle bugs that showed up last year. They have a reddish butt (not the red shoulder beetle). It feels like a lit cigarette is being put out on the skin when they bite. They leave a circle indentation and missing skin in the center. It doesn't trickle blood, but will be red, and stings.It soon swells in the center, and become a hard lump. Thankfully the pain doesn't last long. My camera won't take a good picture of them. Do you have any idea what this beetle is, what its purpose is, and also why the orange wasp and these beetle suddenly started becoming the norm here?

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    1. Cora: I suspect the "beetle" you are referring to is the "Black Corsair," Melanolestes picipes, a type of assassin bug in the family Reduviidae. I may do a blog post on those soon. They are common to abundant in eastern North America. The males fly very well and are attracted to lights at night. Carelessly swatting one will yield the painful results you describe....The red ichneumon wasps are also common and native.

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  6. Hey Eric,
    Thank you so much for this article on this beautiful bug.
    I've seen one in the Netherlands in 2010, caught it on camera but could NOT identify it. This helped a lot!

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    1. You are most welcome, Karin; but I don't know whether this genus occurs in the Netherlands. There are certainly plenty of ichneumon wasps over there, though!

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  7. Hi Bug Eric,
    I live in Adelaide South Australia. I have just had about 15 of these wasps trying to get in the glass sliding door. Is there any way to get rid of them? I am seriously NOT a fan of flying bugs especially ones that may sting.

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    1. Sarah, I have no idea which ichneumon wasps you have in Australia, so I can't offer much help. I would suggest that, if it is at night that you are having the problem, reduce outdoor lighting that may be attracting them. Otherwise, I'm not sure there is much else you *can* do other than to address what is making you fearful of them.

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  8. Im in the uk and saw one of these tonight.

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  9. My 3 year old daughter picked one of these things up thinking it was a daddy long legs until it stung her!! trusty google led us the above post. we are in the UK - I've never seen one before!

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    1. Thank you for sharing, hope she is all better now!

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  10. Thanks for this. Another UK sighting here too. Never seen one before.

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  11. Just had about 20 on our verandah and flyscreen today in Geelong, Victoria, Australia.

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  12. Jeepers......I just walked the dog around Highton (suburb of Geelong, Victoria, Australia and there are hundreds in every tree. Must be a plague of them. Nasty sting for a couple of minutes and then OK. Need to put an ice block on the sting though to settle it down. Regards Geoff

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    1. Geoff, I'm very sorry for your painful experience; but, I must stress again, I am NOT familiar with Australian insects and cannot verify that it was one of *these* wasps that you encountered. I am writing (mostly) about North American insects. Do get well soon!

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    2. Hi :)
      Im in Melbourne Australia and we have the exact same wasp as pictured above
      I came across one tonight when it flew into my jacket. Im absolutely petrified of any bugs with stingers haha
      So I decided to look up what it was and here I am :D

      Thankyou so much for your information on these creepy bugs :)

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    3. You're welcome, Danielle, thank you for writing!

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  13. Is there anyway to get rid of these? They swarm my porch light every night and come in the house when you open the door. I'm so sick of getting stung and having to chase them down in my house with the fly swatter. It's a huge source of anxiety for me nightly.

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    1. The easy answer is to not turn on the porch light. Beyond that, I'm really not sure. I've never been in a place where you could consider these wasps a nuisance by virtue of large numbers of them. I usually see only a few at any one time.

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    2. I'm not sure why there are so many, but unfortunately we need the porch light when the puppy goes outside. If they didn't love to sting me it wouldn't be an issue. But thank you for your reply, I was just hoping for a solution! Lol.

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  14. Raid works really well! it sound like most here have an appreciation for insects and that's great. Let's get serious though. When these things start affecting your life they went from a charm beautiful wasp to a pest. I just got stung by one of these thing tonight. Thank you Eric for the information.

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  15. @ Jenn Raid works well! It sounds like many here have an appreciation for insects and that's great! Let's get serious here though! When these things start negatively effect your life they go from beautiful and charming creatures to pests. I just got stung by one of these tonight and it hurt enough for me to look into it further. Thank you Eric for the information! Good luck!

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  16. Based on your previous responses and the nature of your website it'safe to assume you disagree. I find different point of views interesting. With that said, do you feel it is ever justified to exterminate? If so, in what case? How about bed bugs, lice, cockroaches ect? I'm just curious. Thanks again for your info and being a good sport toward others that may differ in opinion.

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    1. Termites and other structural pests, lice, bed bugs, sometimes mosquitoes....yes, you definitely need to consider professional help. I can't, however, understand how anyone can get stung by a wasp or bee without that person being the aggressor. Certainly, solitary wasps like the one I have written about here, are never aggressive. You have to physically grab or trap one to provoke it to sting. Considering the great benefit of wasps in killing many *true* pests like caterpillars and flies, we should have a much better opinion of them. Thanks for the compliments.

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  17. The truth is I have no idea how it got down my back and got me. I certainly didn't provoke it. However it matches to your description of feeling trapped (even if it is by their own hand) well I actually learned something and have to admit they are pretty interesting so thank you for indulging me.

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  18. Hi Eric;
    I have killed one exactly the same as the one in your picture 15 minutes ago. It's the first one I've ever seen in my life of that kind. I was at home, in Madrid, Spain, and I first thought it was a mosquito by looking at the erratic movements. And it turned to be a resilient insect for I hit it hard a few times!

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  19. There is one in my room and it was really loud. I live in Colorado so I don't know if it is usual but how long do they live for and what can I do to get rid of it?

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  20. Hey Eric,
    You say these wasps only become aggressive if provoked but I have seen otherwise. I walked from my car, up the steps to my house every day, same as always, but today one of those weird wasps came at me and stung me on the back 3 times. There was no provocation on my part just doing what I always do, walking up the steps to my house. Also this past Fall my brother and I encountered the most aggressive wasps I've ever seen. I walked out on the deck in my backyard and stood there for awhile and suddenly a wasp flew at me full speed straight between my eyes. It felt like I was shot he hit me so hard and where he stung was bleeding and swelled up hugely. My brother went out side later and a wasp flew at him full speed and hit him in the back of the head stinging twice. They were like kamikaze wasps, flying at top speed to crash full force into their intended victims and stinging as much as possible before they died. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

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    1. I cannot comment further without seeing the specimens that caused you and your brother such anguish. It would be irresponsible, in fact, to comment without evidence to examine.

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  21. Yeah, I just got stung by one that got into my house when I let the Cat in and it was flying around my light, do I just paid it no mind til' it flew down my shirt and stung me in the back.
    I was able to shake it out and jig around til' I saw it fall on the floor. I tried to step on it, but as I was stepping I remembered that if I grind it up with my foot, I'll never know what stung me.
    I hadn't stepped hard enough to kill it, but it was down for the count, so I put it in a jar and put it in the freezer next to the Bald Faced Wasp that got in two weeks ago.
    Anyhow, when I was starting to look for what it was online, the first things I found images of were these ichneumon wasps that lay eggs, and I was all freaked out, thinking it had impregnated me!
    Thanks to this article showing the one I just got stung by I realize I'm not going to have wasp babies.
    Thanks.

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    1. Ha! I suspect your story is typical, complete with assumptions made from too little information. Thank you for sharing, you are doing a good service to others by doing so!

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    2. i just got bit by what seems to look as an ichneumon wasp yesterday while teaching a class. i see articles online saying that it stings and injects eggs into the 'host'. i am worried and confused. Does this mean i have its eggs under my skin now?

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    3. No, you do not have eggs under your skin. Some ichneumon wasps can sting in self-defense, but they ONLY lay eggs in their hosts, which are *always* other insects, often caterpillars.

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    4. thank you very much for your reply, Eric!

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  22. Dear Eric, at night we have filmed an insect that we think may be Netelia, but not sure about the subfamily. Can you help?
    Not sure the link will show (in case it doesn't, you can see it by typing "dzikieswinie netelia" on YouTube)
    https://youtu.be/b0uoASSm2E4
    Appreciate your help! We filmed it in Central Europe (Poland) near the Baltic Coast.

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    1. I am not familiar with the European fauna, but my instincts tell me your wasp is different. With your permission I will share the video link on a Facebook group with many wasp experts including several from Europe. I'll await your response.

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    2. Thanks! We will keep on checking your website!

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  23. Hi im from nz and think i saw a Netelia species had a long stinger and was redish just wondering what it was and is it deadly?

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    1. Please do not ask me about fauna outside of the United States and Canada. Thank you, and I'm sorry but I'm not knowledgeable on anything but the nearctic region.

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    2. Kia ora, it is spring, here in the Waikato we have been getting a few of these Ichneumonid wasps in the house at night, i even caught one on the window during the day, trapped it in a jar and put it outside on the fence, the stinger looks pretty long for its size, though i have yet to be stung by one.

      These things have been around for as long as i can remeber and are many seen in the summer months.

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  24. In Northern Ireland and encountered one of these in my bedroom last night after leaving the window open and light on. Had no idea what it was. Thank Goodness I only found out it could sting after I got rid of it, as flying insects are terrifying as it is!!

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  25. On a weekend away in Dorset, UK this weekend I experienced a sting from one of these (or so I think) after mistaking it for a common British moth and cupping my hands around it to throw it outside. The back door and outside like had been on, which may explain its appearance. As I cupped my hand it began to frantically sting the palms of my hands (horrible experience) - is there any way that this wasp would've impregnated itself somewhere within my hand, or is it more than likely the human body would just flush it out? Serial worrier here who has no idea about bugs, all I know is - IT HURT!!

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    1. I had an identical question from someone else here, too....Some ichneumon wasps can sting in self-defense, but they ONLY lay eggs in their hosts, which are *always* other insects, often caterpillars. You have nothing to worry about other than residual pain, which should have worn off by now. So see your physician if symptoms worsen or persist; BUT, you do *not* have wasp eggs inside you.

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  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Yes, this is a widespread genus of ichneumon wasps; but there are a number of look-a-likes as I mentioned.

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  27. Interesting info I've had about 10 inside my house since it's still cold and snowing in CO mtns. Don't seem aggressive. Maybe they are too cold. I've never seen them here before. I'm wondering if they laid eggs on the tussock moths we were invaded by last summer. Any ideas?

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    1. I have put down everything I know about these wasps in the post itself. Interesting hypothesis about the tussock moths!

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  28. Oh my gosh I've been seeing these things fly around for years in the Mojave Desert region of California. Swear to god I've always thought they were invincible mosquitos (thinking they were mosquitos I've tried to squash a few; it's not easy, most of the time I have to wait until they fall in some liquid and drown). I always thought it was strange that there were so many mosquitos around but no one had ever been bit. Now it makes sense!
    This time of year they're attracted to the light inside the house, sitting on doors and windows until they're opened and the opportunity to come in presents itself. I've tried keeping the blinds closed and such to no avail. Any suggestions on how to keep them out? Or successfully kill the ones that get inside? I've got a few small pets and a small human on the way, so my concern with bugs has...mutated so to speak haha.
    Also, are there maybe certain plants they're attracted to? Like I said, just trying to figure out the best (or any for that matter) way to keep them out of/away from our living spaces. Thank you SO MUCH for all the great information!!

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    1. I do not ever recommend ways of killing insects. At most these wasps are a nuisance. Since they won't sting unless you forcibly grab one (and a female at that), they should be considered largely innocuous.

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  29. Great article. We live in the High Desert in California & I do believe these guys are in the hundreds at night by the river bed. Best way to keep them out is to keep a light on Away from the doors to your home & don't forget to shut them quick!

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  30. I live in Phelan California. 3500 feet elevation. They are bu the hundreds outside my home by the porch lights and a few more inside. I have been stung 3 times. Painful and then itchy. Like everyone else ,I did not provoke but I always felt it sting me and then shook out my clothes and there they were. How long will they be around? How long do they live? What can I do to prevent them from coming in my house?

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    1. Ok, I must admit I have never heard of *so many* wasps at one time around lights at night, which has me wondering if they are something other than the one that is the subject of this post. I would need to examine specimens and do more research to answer your questions. Entomology is a highly inexact science, especially over the internet. Thank you for understanding.

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  31. I am the one from Phelan, California. If these wasps are the ones u are talking about, how long will they be around? What is their lifespan?

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    1. I don't know. A few weeks at most I would think.

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    2. Also, I do not ever give advice on how to kill insects.

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  32. I got stung on a few different occasions by solitary ones of these that had gotten in my room at night in NC. They get in your clothes easily with the odd way they fly (dying, maybe?). The sting didn't hurt badly. But what was disturbing is that my skin had a hole in the center of the welt for days and it itched.

    The itching may just be me with a histamine reaction to many kinds of bug bites (and I get hives sometimes). But the missing center of skin really was unusual! It did it several times. They healed quickly and easily enough but with small scars where the holes were!

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    1. I am sorry you had to experience that! I hope it doesn't happen again.

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  33. I have been getting inundated with comments claiming unprovoked stings by this wasp. First, some of the comments are coming from outside of North America, where I have no expertise; also, without seeing a specimen of what stung you, or at least an image, there is *no way* to know if we are even talking about the same insect. Further comments on this post that are related to stinging episodes will be deleted. Thank you for understanding and respecting my points.

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  34. I hate to be a broken record, but one of these just entered by room and I sprayed at it, slapped at it with an old t-shirt and it disappeared. It's 2am. I can't sleep. I have my room light on. I know it's alive somewhere, and waiting to sting me.

    Didn't know about this bug until tonight, and don't know anything about bugs in general - but just by seeing it - red and long - my mind automatically thought, "some type of stinging wasp!"
    Came on here to confirm, and viola - it is a painfully singing wasp.

    I know you like your bugs, I know, I get it. But now, I can't possible fall asleep knowing I'm just hours or moments away from being stung. God, what a nightmare. And university papers are due. How frustrating your little bugs are.

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  35. I had no idea this was a wasp D: I live in NZ so i didn't think there were any insects other than Bees and (normal) wasps that stung! I caught one for my lizard but for some reason they weren't eating it, then i picked it up by the wings and it attempted to stab me with its ass but i managed to squish it before then :D Those things are scary asf

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  36. Found one of these in my room but has stinger like thing on the back can someone tell me if this is supposed to be in england uk alextullett6@gmail.com please let me know

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  37. I live in Geelong Australia and have had a problem of them coming in when we open a door at night. We are getting at least one every night and it's still winter. I see them hovering around our conifers during the day. It's been a couple of years now and they are still hanging around. In my experience they only sting when they feel in danger and the pain doesn't last long. It's annoying because it stops us enjoying our outside space in the evenings. I would love to move them on. Any ideas?

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    1. As I have said previously on the comments here, I have no clue whether the wasps from continents other than North America are even Netelia, or even ichneumon wasps, for that matter. So, I cannot advise with any degree of accuracy.

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  38. Hiya I live in britan in the uk and I've just killed the exact insect what's on this picture. I thought it was a mosquito but this picture is identical to the one I found and killed in my bathroom. All I'm worried of is there sting dangerouse and if we were asleep would we feel it sting us just myself and my daughters have woke up with red spots on us what look like bites ant advice would be gratefully appreciated.

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    1. Forgive me, but how many times must I say that I cannot say this is the same wasp on any other continent than North America. I wish I had a way to shut off comments. I can't help you without seeing the specimen to know what you are dealing with. I'm sorry.

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  39. Eric,

    Should have stopped by long before now to say thanks for your informative---and patient!---blog. I run across your posts all the time while Googling to identify some insect or arachnid that I've photographed.

    Unlike most of your commenters here, while I was photographing moths in the wee hours of the morning here, I was _thrilled_ to run across a beautiful, orange Ichneumonid wasp that was attracted to the garage lights. So, after getting my first nighttime wasp shots, I appreciate you getting me into the right subfamily of Ophioninae. Will go dig around BugGuide and see if I can narrow it any further.

    Thanks again, Eric, and keep on doing what you do: sharing your enthusiasm of and educating others about 'bugs.' :)

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    1. Thank you kindly for the compliments and encouragement. :-)

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  40. Quite welcome! :) From looking at the wing venation, turns out my orange beauty was some sort of Enicospilus sp. Am still combing the web to see if I can identify it to species.

    Be good to you! Thank you again for all that you share.

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  41. I found one of these under my garage light last night so I took a picture and as soon as the flash went off it flew up and nailed me. It hurt pretty good too. I was taking a picture cause I thought it was a crane fly but it looked different.

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  42. I got stung by one ov these yesterday new zealand greymouth westcoast

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  43. We have heaps and heaps of them here in Kyneton Victoria Australia. NEVER been stung by one. Other than a slight nuisance buzzing around the light I don't mind them at all.

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  44. I was just stung by one last night on the back of my neck. I live in Southern California and I've never seen these until last year (2016). They gather around my porch light next to the entrance to my house. I have to kill about 10+ before i enter my home every night. I caught one a few months back, pinned it down and poked at it. After seeing the stinger, I knew i had to make sure they don't enter my house when I arrive from work. Sooo, last night I think one landed on the hood of my hoodie (assuming) before entering the house. I walked around for a few minutes and then I felt something on the back of my neck. I did a quick brushing movement with my hand thinking it was a hair, a string, or something.....then it got me. It felt like a hair was pulled off my neck. I reached back, realized it was an insect and had a mini panic attack. Now i'm here, figuring out if i'm going to die or turn into a zombie...or worse, a flat earther. I didn't have an allergic reaction, its not itchy like a mosquito bite. Just a small red bump on the back of my neck.

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    1. You should not be affected any more than what you have already experienced. Get well soon!

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  45. One is inside my house I doot see a stinger but im not entirely sure if i should attempt to kill it. The bug lover in me wants to catch it and free it outside and then the cautious me want to kill it before it makes babies in a caterpillar and comes back with an army.

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  46. Had my window cracked at night and one flew in my room. Seemed docile, and gravitated​to my lamp. At first I wasn't sure if it was a wasp, thought maybe a mimic like species. It hopped around flying by lamp, seemed confused, held a paper plate next to it, it landed on it and I just shook the plate outside window and it left.

    These things are all over at night time, never see them in the day here in STL county MO. I swear they seem nocturnal only and attracted to lights like moths.

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    1. They are indeed nocturnal, and drawn to lights.

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  47. They indeed attack with no reason. And sting multiple times. I encountered my first one this afternoon in the barn I was looking at an item on my workbench and out of nowhere it appeared like a mosquito catcher (very spindly legs no sound) in front of my face and then hit me under the eye and then went into my shirt where of course it stung me in the chest . I was able to secure it and am going to make a video later showing the insect and the stings. I looked at the stinger under magnification and wow. It's meant to cause damage. It hurt alot ! I was confused as it looked like a different bug and made no sound at all.

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    1. I'm sorry I should clarify , I live in Southwestern Ontario and it was the Netelia type.

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