How To Get Rid Of Sand Wasps: Helpful Tips

Did you notice sand wasps in your garden? Here’s how to get rid of sand wasps in simple and easy steps.

The Sand Wasp is quite difficult to get rid of. One can use insecticides on them or plant grass to cover sand mounds (their favorite spots to inhabit).,

Other ways to prevent them include dusting their burrow entrance or taking more preventive measures in and around their home to get rid of them

In this article, we will share more such information.  

How To Get Rid Of Sand Wasps
Sand Wasp

What Are These Bugs?

In the family Sphecidae, the term sand wasp is used to refer to some thread-waisted wasps.

The name is also used for some digger wasps that were initially placed in the family Sphecidae but are currently in the Square-headed wasp family called Crabronidae.

Sand wasps are called so because of their habit of digging tunnels in the sand to deposit their eggs.

These diligent workers are great at chipping away large chunks of the earth.

Using their mouthparts and the spines present on their front legs are called tarsal rakes.

With the combined effort of their mouthparts and tarsal rakes, the sand wasps successfully fling small dirt particles off to their stern. 

Sand Wasp

Sand wasps get their work done so quickly that they appear to vanish from our view in seconds!

Just like most wasps and bees, sand wasps, too, enjoy their soil-y solitude.

Whitman’s Solitary Reaper has nothing on this insect predator who isolates itself and refuses to live in colonies.

This solitary pest can often be spotted hunting for habitat or already inhabiting mounds and burrows found in places with loose or sandy soil.

Living life like the Grinch, our wasp in the limelight is unlike social insects such as ants, honey bees, and some hornets; however, it can tolerate a few neighborly wasps nearby. 

How To Get Rid of Them? 

Sand wasps are unaggressive insects that prefer solitude over the company of others.

Although they don’t have an aggressive approach to things, they are quite intimidating.

Sometimes an unaware homeowner might take drastic steps to remove a sand wasp from its nest, after which the sand wasp might attack to defend itself. 

To get rid of sand wasps, one can use permethrin dust or spray to kill them.

Dust the insecticide over their burrow or plant grass on sand mounds to prevent them from building nests around your house.

You can also rake the ground frequently or use a tarp to cover the sand. 

How To Get Rid Of Sand Wasps

How To Identify Them? 

Identified with the help of their distinctly long and tubular abdomen, sand wasps often sport a yellow band.

There are around twelve hundred different species of sand wasps found in North America.

Closely related to the Mud-dauber Wasp, they can be found inland, on the beachfront, and in dunes across the continent.

Although exotic types of variation will inevitably be seen, some defining features can be observed throughout the species. 

The sand wasp belongs to the bembix genus and can be spotted donning a fuzzy head.

Sand Wasp: Stizus brevipennis

Sand wasps enjoy larger bodies that vary in length from 0.8 to 1 inch when compared to other wasps.

However, some sand wasp species can grow to be 2 inches long. 

Sand wasps vary in color from yellow and black to white and black, with a bee-like stripe visible on their tube-shaped abdomen.

Everything comes down to the species. Their transparent wings have brown veins running through them, and their green eyes contrast with the rest of their body.

Sand wasps also have antennae that remain close to each other and yellow legs. 

How To Get Rid Of Sand Wasps

Are They Aggressive?

Sand wasps do not nest in a group and do not live in colonies.

Sometimes, when their nests are threatened and need defending, they may attack collectively as a swarm.

These insect predators are perfectly capable of delivering painful stings but are not aggressive by nature when compared to the European Wasp. 

The sand wasp only ever attacks when its nest is disturbed.

In case a sand wasp has stung you, you can use an ice pack to relieve the pain. If you notice signs of an allergic reaction, seek medical care immediately.

Are They Dangerous?

The typically docile and harmless sand wasp is a firm believer in “live and let live.” It only attacks when stepped on or roughly handled.

Avoid them, and they will do the same to you! Unfortunately, sand wasps are solitary creatures.

Rather than living in a community like other wasps, each female sand wasp digs her own nest.

She takes care of it. Sand wasps can tolerate a few neighbors.

Hundreds of sand wasps can easily make nests and live in small areas, giving the appearance of a large wasp nest nearby.

Treating a large group of wasps is difficult because they do not share nests. 

Sand Wasp

Sand Wasp Removal: Is it necessary?

Before you embark on a violent quest full of wasp-hunting and insecticide dust, consider the perks that they bring to the table.

Sand wasps love devouring flies and can significantly reduce their population in your yard.

Sand wasps certainly look intimidating but are quite beneficial insects that will diligently work around you rather than chase you away.  

Insecticide Dust for Sand Wasps 

This step involves the dusting of burrow entrances with D-Fense Dust.

You should first be dressed in the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) or don a professional bee suit to protect yourself from wasp stings. 

Sand wasp control should be ideally done in the early spring season.

As sand wasps remain active during the daytime, this step should be carried out in the evening when they are the least operative. 

Sand Wasp

Pesticide dust should be applied to all the wasps’ nests found on the soil surface to efficiently put sand wasps to death.

Use a pesticide that contains 0.05% deltamethrin which will help you keep sand wasps at bay for as long as eight months since the first usage.

To control sand wasp nest entryways from a distance, you should use a handheld duster with a slender extension tube.

Use 0.5 pounds of deltamethrin dust for every 1,000 square feet of the treatment area.

Make sure you keep plenty of room for the insecticide dust to merge amidst the air present inside for uniform application.

How To Get Rid Of Sand Wasps

How To Get Rid of Sand Wasps Naturally

The prime nesting locations for sand wasps are usually areas that get a fair amount of sunlight and sparse vegetation.

You can prevent them from inhabiting these mounds by planting grass and saplings.

They will be discouraged by grass, ground cover, or other plants that grow in the sand.

Consider replacing the affected sand with topsoil or mulch if it is under a swing set or in a kid’s play area. Sand wasps will not survive in these environments. 

How To Get Rid of Sand Wasps in Sandbox?

A tarp or sandbox cover will also suffice. This is a straightforward method for keeping wasps out of the sand.

Raking regularly also works by disturbing and demolishing the queen’s carefully constructed tunnels.

If you cover a sandbox and then keep raking it before or after each use, the female sand wasps would then move on, and the males will follow.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are sand wasps attracted to?

As stated by the Missouri Department of Conservation website, sand wasps are attracted to flies that are drawn to people and it is possible for a sand wasp to take a fly who is hovering around you. 

Do sand wasps sting humans?

Sand wasps are one of many wasps that rarely sting humans. Although they can sting if handled incorrectly or walked on barefoot, they are not interactive such as bees and yellow jackets, and are rarely as fiercely defensive as those communal insects. 

How do you find a sand wasp nest?

The nest is a tunnel or series of tunnels dredged into sparse vegetation or unvegetated sandy soil at the bottom of a burrow. Good nesting sites can be scarce, and because these insects are very tolerant of their neighbors, a few hundred may congregate in one area when conditions are favorable. 

How deep do sand wasps dig?

A tunnel made by a female sand wasp is approximately ten or more inches long. Additionally, a few decoy tunnels are built to fool her predators. She lays a single egg per tunnel.

Wrap Up

Sand wasps are diligent diggers who simply mind their own business.

Chipping away gigantic chunks of earth, this insect predator is uninterested in the company of others and only tolerable to a few neighbors.

Our fuzzy-headed wasp is quite docile and isn’t dangerous to humans under normal circumstances.

Living with them certainly has its perks if you get comfortable with these transparent-winged pests. Thank you for reading!

Reader Emails

Sand wasps generally like to keep to themselves, but the problem happens when many of them congregate in one place.

Read on to see some of the emails from our readers in the past, asking us whether they should get rid of these wasps or not.

Letter 1 – Sand Wasp

 

Is this a sweat bee?
Dear Bugman:
I just found your site and have been really enjoying it. What a fantastic learning opportunity. Recently, my family met with another at a nearby park (in Gilbert, Arizona) so our kids could play, and we were fascinated by some insects that looked like colorful bees that were intent on digging in the playground sand. We called our kids over (keeping a respectful distance from the little workers) so they could see and appreciate these interesting insects. I’ve attached two pictures, nothing shows scale, but they were about the size of honeybees only more slender and a little longer. Can you help us identify them? Our kids are very interested to know what they are. Thanks,
Stephanie
Gilbert, AZ

Hi Stephanie,
This is not a Sweat Bee. It is a Sand Wasp. We wrote to Eric Eaton to see if he could be even more specific, but his response which follows doesn’t get very specific either. “Yes, a sand wasp, but could be one of several different genera (Bembix,
Glenostictia, Stictiella,….) Eric”

Letter 2 – Sand Wasp

 

Sand wasp-?
Did not know what type of Wasp this was and found your site, Excellent! Now I know it is a Sand wasp! Live in the High Desert in California and have never seen these before. it was buzzing along with a ton of honey bees in my garden. thanks again for great site!
B.Simes

Hi B.,
This is surely a sand wasp in the subfamily Bembicinae, but the last time we tried identifying one to the genus level, Eric Eaton corrected us. Once again, we believe this to be in the genus Bembix, but we might be wrong. At any rate, your photo is quite nice and the specimen is beautiful.

Letter 3 – Sand Wasp

 


I found this bug in my Tennessee backyard. There are about twenty of them swarming around our patio. They seem to dig holes in the sand. I think it is some kind of sawfly from what i have found on the net. Can you tell me exactly what it is?
Dave

Hi Dave,
This is a Sand Wasp in the genus Bembix. They are not aggressive wasps and they are usually found in sandy areas. They are important predators. The female paralyzes flies to feed the larvae and a single larva will eat as many as 20 flies. Eric Eaton wrote in with this correction: “Hi, Daniel: Oh, and the sand wasp is actually Bicyrtes quadrifasciata, not a Bembix. Bicyrtes hunt stink bugs, which each female paralyzes and stores in a burrow as food for her offspring. Eric”

Letter 4 – Sand Wasp

 

Subject: two bugs
Location: Arizona
November 2, 2012 11:37 am
I have found these two time of bugs. One of them is a spider, and the other isca flying insect.
The spider I have in a location called Saddle Back Mountain in Arizona. The other one out side of my house by the canal.
Signature: Juan F. Hernandez

Sand Wasp

Dear Juan,
We believe this is a Sand Wasp in the tribe Bembicini and you can see photos on BugGuide which look very similar.  We have requested assistance from Eric Eaton to confirm or dispute our identification.

Sand Wasp

Eric Eaton confirms Sand Wasp identification
Yes, and probably the genus Bembix, too.  Nice female (note tarsal rake on front legs).
Eric

Letter 5 – Sand Wasp

 

Subject: Black and Yellow Wasp
Location: Trinity Alps, California
August 24, 2013 6:50 pm
Hi. This guy was on a Zinnia blossom today. I think it may be a Yellow Jacket but it doesn’t seem quite right. This is larger than the Yellow Jackets around here. About an inch long. Seemed to be collecting pollen or laying eggs. Thanks for your help.
Signature: Karen Horn

Sand Wasp
Sand Wasp

Hi Karen,
This is a Sand Wasp in the tribe Bembicini and probably the subtribe Bembicina.  According to BugGuide:  “About three quarters of the species prey on Diptera, and it is believed that fly predation is ancestral in the group; the rest prey on Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Neuroptera, Odonata, and/or Homoptera.”  We believe your individual is in the genus
Bembix and BugGuide has some interesting information on these Sand Wasps, including:  “Females provision their nest with flies which the larvae feed on (a single developing larva may eat more than twenty flies)” and “Provisioning is progressive. The females provide a greater number of prey over subsequent days during larval growth. Adults are excellent diggers and can disappear below the surface of loose sand within seconds.”  We know of a freeway overpass in in industrial part of downtown Los Angeles that is about as far away from a natural area as one can get.  The sandy soil under that freeway is populated by Sand Wasps each summer and we suspect they play an important role in the control of the fly population in the vicinity.

Sand Wasp
Sand Wasp

Thank you so much for your reply!
One question:  Are they pollinators?  Do they collect pollen?  Mine was very busy in that Zinnia and I noticed several other pictures on your website with the Sand Wasps on flowers.
Thanks again, Karen Horn

Adult Sand Wasps do visit flowers for nectar.  Like many adult wasps, Sand Wasps take nectar, but they hunt insect prey for the developing larvae.

Letter 6 – Sand Wasp

 

Subject: Daniel – New Bee?
Location: Hawthorne, CA
October 3, 2013 12:41 pm
Hi Daniel,
We saw what we are pretty sure is a bee in the back today and I know I’ve not seen one like this before. It also did a lot of crawling around on the gravel paths. Can you help?
Signature: Thanks, Anna Carreon

Sand Wasp
Sand Wasp

Hi Anna,
Perhaps this Sand Wasp in the genus Bembix was crawling on the gravel path in an effort to find a good location to build an underground burrow.  Female Sand Wasps provision the nest with Flies for the larval wasps. 

Sand Wasp
Sand Wasp

Letter 7 – Sand Wasp

 

Subject: Sand Wasp
Location: West Valley City, UT
July 13, 2016 8:15 am
It’s fairly easy to tell this is a Sand Wasp given the shelter and size. Finding out that they are not aggressive to humans AND they feed on flies means this little guy(gal) gets to stay right where he(she) is. July 12, 2016, West Valley City, UT.
Signature: Vic M.

Sand Wasp
Sand Wasp

Dear Vic,
Thanks for sending in your image of a Sand Wasp in the tribe Bembicini in her nest.  We don’t think we will be able to provide a species identification based on this image.  According to BugGuide:  “About three quarters of the species prey on Diptera, and it is believed that fly predation is ancestral in the group; the rest prey on Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Neuroptera, Odonata, and/or Homoptera.”

Letter 8 – Sand Wasp

 

Sand Wasp
Sand Wasp

Subject:  Sand Wasps attracted to Mint
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
August 20, 2016
The mint is continuing to attract Honey Bees as well as Skippers, Marine Blues, Syrphid Flies and some gorgeous wasps, like this Sand Wasp in the genus
Bembix.  According to BugGuide, the habitat is “Usually sandy areas; nest holes are dug in the sand; best opportunity to observe individuals is on dunes or where vegetation is sparse.”  BugGuide continues:  “Females provision their nest with flies which the larvae feed on (a single developing larva may eat more than twenty flies)” and “Provisioning is progressive. The females provide a greater number of prey over subsequent days during larval growth. Adults are excellent diggers and can disappear below the surface of loose sand within seconds.”

Sand Wasp
Sand Wasp
Sand Wasp
Sand Wasp

Letter 9 – Sand Wasp

 

Subject:  bee type  bug
Geographic location of the bug: Halifax, MA
Date: 07/29/2021
Time: 12:37 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  makes in ground nest every year like an ant hole about a 1/2 inch.
Sandy soil, most nest are by driveway edge a patio edge
How you want your letter signed:  Tony

Sand Wasp

Dear Tony,
This looks like a Sand Wasp in the Tribe Bembicini, and the activity you describe is consistent with Sand Wasps.  Alas, we cannot provide a species identification.  According to BugGuide:  “About three quarters of the species prey on Diptera (Flies including disease carrying House Flies found around garbage), and it is believed that fly predation is ancestral in the group” which makes them beneficial.  Sand Wasps are not aggressive and the chances of getting stung are very unlikely.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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