This is one of the dozen or so Great Golden Digger Wasps that colonize our pavered walkway every summer (much to Hubs' horror.) They are well over an inch in length and create quite a buzzing sound as they hover over the ground. In reality, however, they are harmless. They are solitary wasps which means that they don't have the "hive mentality" that drives them to protect the nest. In fact, I took this shot after I'd accidentally spooked the big girl into dropping her prize; patiently, I sat next to her prey with my macro lens, waiting for her to work up her courage to come back and get the goods. Which she did. But not before she buzzed around me multiple times. Which would once have terrified me, but now just makes me smile.
Golden Diggers burrow nests which consist of a 4-6 inch downward tunnel with smaller tunnels off to the sides. Once she has excavated her tunnel (removing dirt and small stones with her mandibles) she goes hunting for katydids, crickets and grasshoppers. Once she's found one, she injects it with a paralyzing serum and then takes it to the nest. She leaves it outside while she makes sure the "nursery" is ready, takes it in, lays one egg on it, and then seals that section of the tunnel. At the end of the summer, she dies and her offspring will eventually make their way to the surface around the end of June next year. An amazing life cycle. While she isn't hunting for hosts for her eggs, she survives on nectar.
So if you see a very large black and orange wasp buzzing around, don't reach for the can of raid. Instead, sit back and observe - you never know what you'll see.
Thank you so much for helping me celebrate 9 years yesterday. My heart is filled with gratitude to this wonderful, supportive community. I appreciate you all so very, very much.
Be safe. Be kind, be loving.