This is incredible and why I love watching what is going on around me when working outside. Last week while working in a garden where we had just pruned off a giant limb on a maple tree, I saw the most incredible sight.
It was a Eastern Giant Ichmeumon female laying eggs. I watched several of them over 2 days do this process. Both days it happened late in the day around 4 o’clock. I was there earlier again this week and watched for them again but it was a no show.
This insect is in the wasp family, looks like a tiger with dragon fly wings and a darning needle attached to it’s end. I saw them in size from 1.5″ in body length and 2″ darner attached, to a 2.5″ body length with what I believe to a good 3.5″ darner. The darner was huge and considering what I saw it was all quite a feat.
When you see something like this, it’s so striking, the colouration, the size of the darner and when they are grouping together you know it’s just a good thing to watch what is happening. As usual in the garden it’s about sex, reproduction and eating. Too wild!
I had no idea what these things were, but I knew I was going to find out, so I took a 10 minute break to watch and photograph them and what they were doing.
What I learned later when I got home and read about them blew me away. They have written science fiction about this kind of behaviour.
I sent the photo’s and description of what was happening to my family to see what they had to say about it. One of my brothers wrote back he did not sleep at all that night thinking about it.
What a riot! Of course he was kidding but this takes me into the Twilight Zone….
The female Eastern Giant Ichneumon when mated flies around from tree to tree using it’s long antennae to sense or feel vibrations of the Pigeon Tremex (Pigeon Horntail), larvae in the wood. They also use their antennae find the scent of a fungus associated with the larvae. Once vibrations and/or fungus are detected with her antennae the female will start to pull up her darner, called an ovipositor and actually curl it up and over her abdomen, bringing it straight down to the wood.
She is actually able to pierce the wood with her ovipositor at a right angle and deposit her egg into the larvae of her eggs host (the Pigeon Tremex). Her sharp tip will cut the wood and penetrate deeper into the wood until she reaches the larvae. Once located the female inserts a slender egg into each horntail tunnel.
Once her egg develops into a grub it actually feeds on the horntail host by attacking it, this of course means the demise of the horntail but not before the larva of the Eastern Giant Ichneumon is fully grown. This actually is a helpful biological control of Pigeon Horntails, who I am guessing need to be controlled!
The log on which this happened will be offered to the owner of the property if they do not want it then I am bringing it home to my garden. Logs, now I am bringing home logs!