During last night’s kayak tour at Devil’s Lake, we performed a minor rescue. Just as the light of the day was fading we caught a glimpse of some vibrations in the water. On approach I realized it was a Giant Ichneumon Wasp! Sweet!
Many people find the Ichneumon Wasp scary because of it’s fairly large size and that intimidating tail that some confuse with a stinger. The long tail of this Giant Ichneumon Wasp is actually the ovipositor. The length allows it to lay its eggs in tunnels made by horntail larvae in the rotten wood deep inside a dead tree. It’s actually a cool process which you can read more about right here.
Ichneumons Wasps are harmless to humans and actually beneficial, as they help control insects, including many considered pests such as tomato hornworms, boll weevils, and wood borers.
Scooping the wasp up with my paddle I eased it down onto the front hatch cover of my kayak. As we paddled on, she slowly cleaned off the water while holding her wings out to dry in the breeze. As she dried out, she turned to face into the “wind”. She climbed up onto the highest point of my kayak which was on a bit of tubing near the compass, stretched out her wings and “lift off”! For a moment she just hung in the air before slowly moving east. As she went she began to get some elevation and soon disappeared into the distance.
Oh, and that crazy name? “Ichneumon” comes from Greek meaning “tracker”. The word may seem familiar from mythology where the mongoose, Ichneumon was the only true enemy of the dragon (or crocodile depending on the tale). Ichneumon would cover himself with mud and crawl inside the dragon to kill it from the inside out. Tricky!
Over the years we’ve rescued many insects from the lake from bees to butterflies. It’s a much more rewarding endeavor than rescuing bobbers and beer cans…