KY: Black wasp with showy yellow antennae
August 26, 2009
This wasp has been around my house for the past few weeks, but its the first time I’ve ever seen this species anywhere. It looks significantly larger than the common red wasp here. Reminds me of a tarantula hawk but maybe slightly smaller. I looked through pictures of the local spider wasps but couldn’t find a match–looks more similar to that one from Australia except the wings look darker. Has very quick, jerky movement and exhibits wing shaking or flickering. It appears to be foraging for possibly other insects the way it is crawling all over these vines in the picture. It is very aggressive and has chased and pursued me hundreds of yards–so I’m lucky to have finally snapped these pictures at a safe distance. Body is completely black, Wings are black and s hiny with brown terminal ends, and the antennae are slightly mustard yellow and can curl. The passionflower with the posterior view is exactly 1″ from base to top (excluding the spikes on top of the bud) for scale, but I can’t tell if the wasp is forshortened by perspective due to its angle because it “looks” longer than that to me. It’s a different bud than the one with the side view of the wasp–I wasn’t able to find that bud again.
I’m not too crazy about this thing because of its aggressiveness, but I’d like to know more. If it is invasive or dangerous I might try to eradicate it, but if it is something rare or less dangerous that it looks, I might try to leave it be!
Louisa, KY, USA
We are excited to be getting photos of a magnificent new species for our website. You are correct that this is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae. The species is Entypus unifasciatus and it doesn’t have a common name. BugGuide has a considerable amount of information on this species.
BugGuide indicates: “Life Cycle There is one generation per year. Males emerge first. By late August/early September most females are worn. By mid- to late September most female are very worn, with most of the apical area of the wing being tattered away. Life cycle probably more drawn out in far south, but there is very little difference. Most individuals do not persist into October. … Parasitoid of spiders, including wolf spiders (Lycosidae). … Females dig a burrow that ends in a terminal chamber off of the side of a mammal burrow or large crack in the ground. The serrations on the hind tibiae are used to aid the movement of soil out of the burrow entrance. The position in which the egg is laid is unknown. Larvae feed on one large spider and, as in all Pompilids that have one generation per year, overwinter as pupae.” We hope knowing a bit about this magnificent wasp will keep you from trying to eradicate it.