what is it?

Okay! Here’s a post for the entomology sleuths among you. I shot this photo around noon on May 24th, but haven’t had time to look around for an ID for this creature. As I’m off to do some hiking around for the weekend, I decided to toss this out to see if anyone might know what this is. At first glance, due to its mammoth size, I thought it might be some kind of sphecius wasp, but I don’t think the anatomy is right.

UPDATE: I’m home from hiking, and gave this insect some more thought while I was out and about. I decided to try looking at sawflies instead of bees or wasps, and bingo… it’s definitely a sawfly of some kind — looks like it’s some kind of Cimbicidae – probably a Cimbex species. I found one that looks very much the same on BugGuide.net. And another photo from a website called Zooex.Baikal.ru from Russia. It looks quite similar to my photo. They show it as Cimbex femorata. There’s a story about Cimbex sawflies to add to this, but I think I’ll do it up as a new post later tonight. Read on for more information about this very robust insect.

Here are some specifics:
The body was really thick, and with a very oddly segmented abdomen (bumpy looking). As mentioned, the insect was quite large – probably a bit over 3 cm. long. The thorax was massive and sort of muscular looking, and the “waist” was thick, unlike most wasps. If one was looking for the insect equivalent of The Incredible Hulk, this would be it as it seemed a bit unreal — so muscular and almost plastic looking. The head was very broad, and it had really weird yellow, clubbed antennae. Its big, smoky-black wings were very conspicuous when it was flying — which is actually when I first noticed it. I followed it until it landed on a leaf and then approached to take some photos. It was one of those insects that’s very “aware”, and as I tried to get in close with my camera, it would turn to look right at me. Not knowing if it was capable of inflicting a sting, I didn’t push my luck too far. I got a few decent shots with the camera at a distance of about a foot – so not quite so close or detailed as I would like, but not bad. Unfortunately, the sunlight was very strong, so the photo is kind of blown, but there should be enough details there to get some idea of what this thing might be (click on image to see a larger view).

So, there you go insect sleuths. Don’t be shy! Post your best guesses and I’ll check back to see what you came up with when I get home. (Edit: I’m still interested in narrowing down the ID on this sawfly, so it you have any idea, please feel free to post a comment).


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6 Responses to “what is it?”

  1. Jimmy Says:

    The best I can do is this….Cimbicid sawfly…in the familycimbicidae…it is one of the largest saw fly families…just my guess…

  2. burning silo Says:

    Hi Jimmy – Thanks! You must have been posting a reply around the same time as I was editing the original post. I agree — it is some kind of Cimbicidae. See my notes in the edit of the original post regarding a couple of somewhat similar looking examples that I found online. I’m just going to write a new post about a Cimbex larva that I found a couple of years ago to tie that in with this post about the sawfly. Thanks for posting a comment!

  3. Ontario Wanderer Says:

    Both posts and photos were very interesting. There is so much to learn!

  4. burning silo Says:

    OW – Yes, there really is so much to learn. When I think of how little I knew about insects about five years ago compared to now, I realize how far along I’ve come — but then I think of how much more there is to learn and realize that I know almost nothing! I suppose that’s both the challenge and fun, but also the curse of being interested in the insect world. So much to learn and so little time. (-:

  5. Cory Says:

    We were working on the deck today and noticed black bee like guys going into holes in the metal window. Seemed to be a few every minute or so. Do they nest in there or are they taking from there?

  6. burning silo Says:

    Cory – It’s hard to say, but I’d guess that they might have a nest in there. The only other possibility is that they’ve found some insect that they are eating or seizing to take back to feed to their larvae. Not knowing the insect, it’s difficult to speculate on what they’re up to. The best thing to do when you see something like what you’ve described, is to spend some time watching the insects to try to figure out what they’re up to.