I have recently begun participating in “Project Noah,” and as a result find yet another demand for identification of mystery bugs, like this one posted just yesterday. The subject of the image is a Red-necked Ash Borer, Neoclytus acuminatus, a type of longhorned beetle in the family Cerambycidae.
The person who posted the image says he calls them “crickabees” because they have “legs like a cricket….and stripes like a bee.” Most folks mistake these beetles for wasps, though. They can be fast-moving insects, a trait not always associated with beetles. Couple that with their bold markings, and it would be easy to assume they are a stinging insect.
Despite its name, this beetle bores in virtually any hardwood tree during its larval stage, though it does seem to favor ash. It has also been recorded from woody vines and shrubs. I have noticed the adults on freshly-cut trees, but also on older logs. While dead, dying, or weakened trees are most commonly exploited by the Red-headed Ash Borer, it is also a serious pest of healthy black locust trees planted as windbreaks or on farm woodlots. It may also attack recently-planted trees. So, trees stressed in some way are going to be vulnerable to this beetle.
References indicate that the normal flight period for Neoclytus acuminatus is between May and August in the northeast U.S., and from February to November in the southeast. There may be up to three generations each year in the south, usually only one in the north. Firewood brought indoors in late winter or early spring may yield adult beetles emerging inside your home.
This species is widespread, found almost everywhere east of the Rocky Mountains (and into Idaho). It is not one of the larger longhorned beetles, adults measuring only 4-18 millimeters in length.
Sources: Shour, Mark. 2008. “Red-headed Ash Borer Also a Threat to Ash Trees,” Extension News.
Solomon, J.D. 1995. Guide to Insect Borers of North American Broadleaf Trees and Shrubs. Agric. Handbk. 706. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 735 pp.
Yanega, Douglas. 1996. Field Guide to Northeastern Longhorned Beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae). Illinois Natural History Survey Manual 6. 184 pp.