This beautiful wasp is a deep amber color, with yellow and black markings covering its body. The wasp's body is about 1.5 inches long, and the ovipositor of the female is about 3 inches long (this one's is slightly longer than 3 inches). To quote a friend, "It looks like a Balrog that got hit with a sneeze of tie-dye."
Forests, fields, etc. in North America. Near dead trees where horntail wasp larvae occur.
Don't freak out! While this wasp looks menacing, it is harmless to humans. It has one of the longest ovipositors you're ever going to see, but it uses it to drill into wood, where it parasitizes the larvae of horntail wasps (Tremex columba). This female was found on a dead tree that I was drawn to after spying a large mushroom growing from the wood. When I arrived to take pictures of the mushroom, I looked above it and this wasp was staring back at me. I jumped back out of surprise, and started yelling out of sheer joy: I had been looking for a female of this species since May, all I had been finding all summer were the males! It's difficult to describe the beauty of this wasp using just words and still pictures, I highly recommend seeing it in action. It looks extremely powerful pumping its ovipositor through the wood, simply magnificent.
The wasp was content to watch me while I took pictures, and after a long day of searching for assassin bugs and coming up empty-handed, this was a welcome surprise. Found at Barbara A. Beiser Field Station.