I always look for birds when I'm outdoors but they just aren't as conspicuous as the bugs are in July.
Last weekend on the Montour Trail I found a large black-and-orange wasp feeding on spreading dogbane. It attracted my attention because it was huge and had bright orange legs and abdomen.
The name is apt. They are huge, golden (their foreheads are gold!), and they dig a hole to create their nests.
Great golden diggers are solitary. To make a nest a female digs a vertical hole with lateral chambers. For each egg laid, she captures and paralyzes a katydid or grasshopper, then drags it into one of the chambers, lays an egg on it and seals the chamber. The larva feasts on the paralyzed insect and emerges as a wasp. Read more of this amazing story here.
I tried to get a good photo showing her orange body. Below she flaps her wings to perch on an unstable flower.
Was I afraid she'd sting me? No. She was too busy feeding.
Later I learned I had nothing to fear. Though intimidating, this species is not aggressive.
(photos by Kate St. John)
p.s. Check the video link at "Art from Hershey, PA"s comment below to see what the digger's nest looks like from above.