Spider Wasp Nest: Are They Really So Bad?

Have you got spider wasps buzzing around in your garden? This article will help you find spider wasp nests, and also tell you why you might not need to eliminate them after all

Spiders are one of the scariest insects on earth. They look intimidating, and their venom is poisonous, especially the big ones, like tarantulas.

If you are scared of spiders, there is one common garden insect that can help you get rid of a spider infestation in no time – the spider wasp.

These wasps are excellent at helping you get rid of spiders naturally. But is it safe to let them roam your garden? Let us find out.

Spider Wasp Nest
Spider Wasp with Rain Spider

What Are Spider Wasps?

Spider wasps belong to the Pompilidae family. They are commonly known as pompilid wasps or simply pompilids.

These insects are known for their excellent hunting abilities.

They are experts at killing dangerous free-living spiders like wolf spiders, tarantulas, jumping spiders, and more.

Unlike social wasps like yellow jackets, these insects do not live in colonies. They are solitary wasps.

These are one of the largest wasps in North America and can show an average growth of ¼ to 1½ inches.

Adult spider wasps can be identified by their long and spiny legs; Their bodies are usually black, brownish, or blue-black with yellow bands.

The wings are mostly clear or dark, like the body.

Hawk wasps (tarantula hawks), rusty spider wasps, and black-banded spider wasps are a few common species of this family.

Where Do They Live?

Spider wasps are found in large numbers in North America and Mexico. There are around 300 species of spider wasps in these regions.

These wasps can thrive in a variety of habitats.

There are a few species that are usually found in places with loose soil because they live underground.

Since adult wasps are known to hunt spiders, they prefer to be around areas with abundant spider populations.

The female wasp usually hunts these spiders and drags them to the nest or burrow to feed the wasp larva.

You also find these species of wasps flying around flower gardens and wildflowers, as the adults rely on nectar to fulfill their diets.

Spider Wasp

What Do They Eat?

The spider wasp larvae are carnivorous; they consume the spider prey captured by the mother spider wasp.

They provide enough protein and other nutrients to help the larva grow into a healthy adult.

Various species of spider wasps hunt free-living spiders like crab spiders, tarantulas, and more.

Some species are also experts in hunting other web-creating spiders like orb weavers, funnel-web weavers, etc.

Fascinatingly, adult spider wasps aren’t carnivorous themselves – they have a herbivorous diet.

These insects rely on sweet flower nectar, honeydew, and fruit juices to survive and get energy.

What Do Spider Wasp Nests Look Like?

Various species of spider wasps have different nesting habits.

Some of these species prefer to occupy abandoned mud nests of thread-waisted wasps, like mud daubers.

Others prefer to build burrows or occupy nests built by potter wasps.

The ones who build their own nests usually construct them in rock crevices or rotten wood.

The ones who dig burrows prefer places with loose soil.

You can find them in areas with abundant spider populations. The male prefers to occupy territories that boast a good amount of spiders and flowers to fulfill the dietary requirements of the larvae and adults.

Spider Wasp Life Cycle

Spider wasps are solitary; They build individual nests. Here, the males hold territories, and during the mating season, they wait for the receptive female to enter the area.

Once mating is done, the females start searching for spiders.

You will be fascinated to know that various types of spider wasp species prefer hunting a specific type of spider. The female stings the spider and paralyzes it.

She then drags the paralyzed spider to the nest.

As mentioned above, these nests can be underground burrows, mud cells, or pre-existing nests of mud daubers or potter wasps.

At times, the female snips off the limbs of the spider to make it easier to drag it to the nest. One spider is kept for each egg.

The larva consumes the huge spider step by step to growing big enough to start pupating.

Spider Wasp

Here is a unique fact- the wasp larvae avoid eating the vital organs of the spider until it reaches the final growth stages. This keeps the internal organs fresh.

After devouring the paralyzed spider, it starts pupating inside a silken cocoon.

Usually, the insects overwinter as pupae before emerging as healthy adults.

As adults, they fly around flowers for nectar and to repeat the cycle.

How Spider Wasps Hunt Their Prey?

As we mentioned, these wasps are known to hunt down huge spiders like tarantulas, crab spiders, and more. Have you wondered how they take down these giant insects?

Spider wasps use the powerful neurotoxin to immobilize their prey. Some species kill the hunters as well.

These wasps run after their prey by continuously jerking their wings. On capturing the prey, they pierce the fangs to inject the venom into the abdomen to paralyze the hunt.

The paralyzed prey is then carefully dragged to the nest and kept with an egg. At times, the female snips off the legs of the hunt to easily drag them around.

How To Get Rid of Spider Wasp Nests?

Spider wasps may look intimidating, but they are not aggressive toward humans. These insects rarely sting or attack humans.

However, they are capable of delivering painful stings. These stings can trigger an allergic reaction in the body and can be lethal at times.

Apart from their stinging habit, these insects are harmless. In fact, these wasps are beneficial insects, as they help to eliminate scary spiders and are decent pollinators.

However, it can be scary to deal with painful insect stings. Also, if you are allergic to wasp stings, you must get rid of these spider wasp nests.

Here are a few tips and tricks to help eliminate them:

  • Spider wasps are usually accidental invaders that enter your home by mistake. Therefore you must inspect the house thoroughly to find cracks and gaps that can ideal for these wasps to sneak in. If you find these cracks and gaps, seal them immediately. Doing so will keep the wasps away.
  • If there are spiders around your house, get rid of them immediately. A home full of spiders gives an open invitation to these wasps. Clean areas with rotten wood to avoid a swarm of spiders. Also, keeping the interiors clean can help to keep the spiders at bay.
  • You can use wasp traps to eliminate the nearby wasps. The traps have a liquid that attracts the wasp to come flying in. These wasps later get trapped and are drowned in the fluid. Keep cleaning the wasp trap to avoid swarming of dead wasps.
  • You can also carefully scrap off the pre-existing mud nests of mud daubers and other thread-waisted wasps. Spider wasps usually use these nests to lay eggs. Simply scrape off the mud cells with a large hole. The hole indicates that the nest is empty.

Spider Wasp with Prey

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a wasp spider reproduce?

Spider wasps are solitary and build individual nests.
After mating, females search for specific types of spiders to sting and paralyze before dragging them to their nests, which can be underground burrows, mud cells, or pre-existing nests of other wasps.
One spider is kept for each egg, and the larva consumes the spider to grow big enough to pupate.
The larvae avoid eating the vital organs until the final growth stages and then pupate inside a silken cocoon.
The insects overwinter as pupae before emerging as adults, which fly around flowers for nectar and to repeat the cycle.

What kills wasps instantly?

If you suspect a wasp infestation, identify the nest and wasp species before treating it.
Wear protective gear and use methods like nest drenching or dusting, perimeter spraying, baiting, homemade sprays, or traps to eliminate the infestation.
If you suspect a paper wasp infestation, contact licensed pest control personnel.
Take precautions to avoid contact with insecticides and always destroy the nest once all wasps are gone.

Why is it called spider wasp?

Spider wasps, also known as pompilids, are a type of solitary wasp in the Pompilidae family.
They are skilled hunters, known for killing dangerous spiders such as wolf spiders and tarantulas. They are one of the largest wasps in North America and can grow up to 1.5 inches.
Adult spider wasps have spiny legs and black, brownish, or blue-black bodies with yellow bands.
They do not live in colonies like social wasps. Common species include hawk wasps, rusty spider wasps, and black-banded spider wasps.

What smell kills wasps?

Certain scents and smells can keep wasps away, as they have a strong sense of smell.
Plants like peppermint, spearmint, basil, and eucalyptus, as well as scents like cloves, geranium, thyme, citronella, bay leaves, and lemongrass, can repel them.
Other options include vinegar, cinnamon, coffee grounds, and sliced cucumber.

Wrap Up

Spider wasps are known for their ability to hunt and consume massive spiders.

These insects use a strong neurotoxin to paralyze these giant pests and carry them to their nests for the larva.

They are beneficial because they naturally get rid of spiders and are decent pollinators. However, they can deliver painful stings that can trigger allergic reactions in the body.

Remember, these wasps will not attack unless they feel highly threatened.

Be careful around them and use the tips and tricks given in this article to eliminate spider wasps from your home.

Thank you for reading the article.

Authors

    by
  • 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.

  • 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.

17 thoughts on “Spider Wasp Nest: Are They Really So Bad?”

    • The wasp doesn’t eat the spider. The Wasp stings the spider and then lays an egg on the spider which provides a meal for the larvae of the wasp.

      Reply
  1. That’s great sleuthing Daniel thank you so much. If I can track down the exact ID I’ll update this post. I didn’t realise only females hunted wasps.

    PS. You might want to update the subject. Singapore isn’t part of China. 🙂

    Reply
  2. August 23, 2013

    The spider wasp pictured from Martinsburg WV is the same wasp like insect I saw in Charleston WV crawling in my yard. Extremely large with the orange antennae
    and wings tipped in the same orange. I am 62 years old and have never seen this type wasp in my entire life and I was born and raised in Charleston and have been a life long resident in this area. Is this a new species to our area?

    Reply
  3. August 23, 2013

    The spider wasp pictured from Martinsburg WV is the same wasp like insect I saw in Charleston WV crawling in my yard. Extremely large with the orange antennae
    and wings tipped in the same orange. I am 62 years old and have never seen this type wasp in my entire life and I was born and raised in Charleston and have been a life long resident in this area. Is this a new species to our area?

    Reply
  4. I live in Grafton, WV and was doing laundry today when I looked outside and saw a blue wasp following a brown spider. Just before it got off the concrete the wasp jumped on him. After some back and forth struggle the wasp flipped the spider over and stung it. The wasp jumped off and the spider righted itself. At first there was a little motion but soon went still. I watched the wasp come back once but then flew away. As we speak the still paralyzed spider is out on the walk way. I’ve only seen this on animal shows and in some other part of the world. Is this normal in WV? I was completely facinating and showed my wife and kids. I just want to know if this is common for the area.

    Reply
    • Common is relative. We are curious why the Spider Wasp took the trouble to sting and paralyze a Spider and then not take it to the nest. We did a bit of research and we learned that the Blue-Black Spider Wasps in the genus Anoplius have a wide range in North America, and according to BugGuide, the female constructs a nest and then “Larvae are provisioned with wolf spiders, funnel web spiders. Many are generalists and will provision with nearly every common family of spider found in North America. … Most are fossorial ground nesters, although some will use borings in wood and other crevices.” We also learned that one species, Anoplius aethiops is only reported from Ohio and West Virginia, and according to BugGuide: “A. aethiops visits flowers while A. cleora RARELY does. Soil type is also significant. A. cleora is almost completely restricted to very sandy soil and A. aethiops is not. Note by Nick Fensler”

      Reply
  5. Deuteragenia Ossarium

    That is a spider hunting wasp (Deuteragenia Ossarium) is a species from family Pompilidae. This predatory wasps hunt arachnids and use it alive to incubate their larvae.

    “The female wasp explores the jungle to find the spiders and hunt them, wasps sting and paralyze spiders then dragging the spider back into their mud nests. They always come back to the nest as soon as possible. A single egg will be put inside the belly of the spider. After the hatching, the larvae will eat the spider from the inside.

    “Spider hunting wasp (Deuteragenia Ossarium) tend to keep the spider’s vital organs remain works until the end, because they need the spider to stay alive and in fresh condition to be consumed by their larvae.

    http://www.bukitlawang.asia

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for providing a species identification for this Malaysian Spider Wasp. Please let us know how you can be so certain that the species is correct.

      Reply
  6. Deuteragenia Ossarium

    That is a spider hunting wasp (Deuteragenia Ossarium) is a species from family Pompilidae. This predatory wasps hunt arachnids and use it alive to incubate their larvae.

    “The female wasp explores the jungle to find the spiders and hunt them, wasps sting and paralyze spiders then dragging the spider back into their mud nests. They always come back to the nest as soon as possible. A single egg will be put inside the belly of the spider. After the hatching, the larvae will eat the spider from the inside.

    “Spider hunting wasp (Deuteragenia Ossarium) tend to keep the spider’s vital organs remain works until the end, because they need the spider to stay alive and in fresh condition to be consumed by their larvae.

    http://www.bukitlawang.asia

    Reply
  7. Very good call on Calopompilus pyrrhomelas from Idaho (10/13/2018 by Shara Cook). Certainly not an easy call to make. I’ve seen records from Pocatello, Idaho for Entypus (formerly Priocnemioides) aratus and E. unifasciatus. Have you seen any other records for these two species of Entypus from Idaho? Thanks.

    Reply
  8. I saw a large (one & a third inch long by a third inch diameter and third inch long stinger) solid black wasp with orange/red wings in my yard in Coeur d’ Alene Idaho on September 7 2019. It was bigger than any wasp I’ve ever seen in 63 years as a North Idaho native. I stepped on it three times with my sandals in the grass and it was still trying to get away. Tough as well as huge.

    Reply
  9. Saw one in my yard today hunting a spider. About 2CM long half cm wide all black. Fairly small compared to hornets or other wasps I’ve seen. He was hunting a spider that was running for terrified. Pretty sure we have them nesting above the door to our house as Ive seen them drag things in the holes of the liner. Very cool to see him tracking the spider. (Spider was a hobo and running very fast.) Wasp was about the same size a bit slimmer.

    Reply

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