Pigeon Horntail

By William T. Hathaway

Pigeon Horntail (Tremex columba)

This wasp-like creature caused a stir when it was first captured. Students on the hiking crew wondered what kind of a stinging wasp this was. Frankly, I couldn't answer their fears about touching the insect.

Later my entomology book unlocked the secret: this insect was a member of the horntail family, and adults do not sting. Females (not pictured) have a longer projection called an ovipositor, used to deposit eggs in tree trunks. The life cycle of the horntail is interesting, but complicated.

Our pinned specimen in the collection is about 27 mm in length and represents the only North American species out of about 22 found worldwide in the genus Tremex.