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.

Reader Emails

Spider wasps are fascinating creatures, and though we have often gotten questions from our readers on how to find their nests and eliminate them, our advice has always been to just let the nests be.

Please go through a selection of a few such emails below.

Letter 1 – Australian Spider Wasp and Robber Fly


WTB? – Query
Hello Bug Master,
I took these photos a while ago in Australia. We have no idea what they are. We think the first photo (Photo 1) could be related to the Australian Spider Wasp. We think the second photos (Photo 2a & Photo 2b) could also be related to a wasp family. WIth the second photos the insect looks like it is holding it’s baby – maybe teaching it to fly. I was using a standard lense so unfortunately I couldn’t get the insect any closer in the photo. Thanks for your help!

Hi Libby,
Though the coloration is slightly different from the Spider Wasp, Cryptocheilus bicolor, we recently posted, we believe it is either a color variation or a closely related species. Your second image is of a Robber Fly with prey.

Letter 2 – Spider Wasp in West Virginia


tarantula hawk Is this what I think it is? I shot this on 8/12 in Martinsburg, WV in a disturbed open field. Thanks, Rob Schwander hi Rob, For some reason, we are unable to log onto BugGuide today, and BugGuide is our favoritie research resource when we need to identify a species that we are uncertain about. For now, we will say that this is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae, and it may be a Tarantula Hawk in the genus Pepsis. The only Pepsis species substantiated as being in the East is Pepsis menechma, and we did locate a photo, and it seems to resemble your wasp. We will verify either through Eric Eaton or upon the return of BugGuide to the World Wide Web. Update: BugGuide has returned … and we are nearly certain this is the Elegant Tarantula Hawk, Pepsis menechma. Though BugGuide does not indicate submissions from West Virginia, there are reports from border state Virginia. Since there are no Tarantulas in West Virginia other than pets, it is believed the Elegant Tarantula Hawk feeds Trapdoor Spiders to its progeny. Correction: (08/13/2008) Daniel: Pepsis menechma probably does occur in southern West Virginia, but the image is of a different spider wasp: Entypus unifasciatus. They do get quite large. Excellent image of a female! Eric Correction: (08/13/2008) Bugman, I am no expert, but I think I recognize a submission today that you tentatively identified as a tarantula hawk. I think it’s a close relative of the tarantula hawk, but is actually an Entypus Unifasciatus. It’s not quite as vicious or as large. 😉 Misty Doy Canonsburg, PA

Letter 3 – Spider Wasp


Spider Wasp: Entypus unifasciatus Location:  North Middle Tennessee August 3, 2010 8:32 pm Hi Daniel, I think I have an ID on this very busy wasp. I believe it is an ”Entypus unifasciatus” (no common name) It was in the grass and a brush pile. It would go beneath the grass and emerge several inches away, never still. A bit diffult to photograph, this is the best shot of three or four attempts. My very best wishes to you. Richard
Spider Wasp
Hi Richard, You have done a nice job of identifying your Spider Wasp, Entypus unifasciatus.  BugGuide has a very informative page on this species which is reported to have a transcontinental range but for the Pacific Northwest.  The active behavior is a characteristic of the Spider Wasps in the family Pompilidae.  The females often rapidly dart about on the ground waving their antennae in search of spiders to feed to their progeny.  BugGuide describes the habitat as:  “Always in semi-open or open situations (“waste areas”, meadows, pastures, open woods and edges, desert, semi-arid grassland, etc.). Never found in deep woods.”  Of the life cycle, BugGuide explains:  “Parasitoid of spiders, including wolf spiders (Lycosidae). Prey records only exist for E. unifasciatus unifasciatus. They are known to prey on Pardosa riparia and Rabidosa rabida and “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.”  Though this is reported to be a common species with a transcontinental range, your letter is only the second posting we have of this species on our site.

Letter 4 – Spider Wasp with Prey in Tanzania


Two Tanzanian Bugs Location:  Treetops Safari Camp, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania August 12, 2010 7:40 pm While walking to our tree house accommodations at the Tree Tops Safari Camp in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, my daughter found these two intertwined bugs. What are they Bug Man? AJ
Spider Wasp with Prey
Dear AJ, This is a spectacular safari image.  Your daughter is quite an accomplished photographer.  Does your daughter have a name, or is she just your daughter?  This is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae, and the spider is most likely a Tarantula.  Spider Wasps are phenomenal hunters.  The female Spider Wasp locates a Spider and battles with it, generally winning.  The Spider is stung on the belly and is paralyzed but still alive.  The Spider Wasp then drags it back to a prepared burrow or excavates a burrow on the spot and buries the Spider after laying a single egg.  The egg hatches and the larval wasp feeds upon the comatose spider, eating it alive.  That ensures that the meat of the spider will remain fresh.  The Spider Wasp Larva feeds on non-vital organs first, and the spider eventually dies.  Only the female Spider Wasp hunts as the male who has no stinger is incapable of stinging.  The prey of Spider Wasps usually includes Tarantulas and Trapdoor Spiders, but in Australia they feed upon Huntsman Spider and some species of Spider Wasps prey upon Wolf Spiders.  The Spider Wasps are generally species specific when it comes to prey.  Adult Spider Wasps feed upon nectar and they are frequently seen on blossoms. Bug Man…my daughter’s name is Kryss. Thanks for that update AJ.  We have an issue with our friends and colleagues introducing their mates and or relatives at social events as “my wife” or “my boyfriend” or even “my mother” and our response is always the same.  “Does your wife (boyfriend or mother) have a name? or is she (he) just your wife (boyfriend or mother)?”

Letter 5 – Spider Wasp with Prey from Australia


Orange beetle eating/killing a spider? Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia April 6, 2011 5:28 am Hi Bugman, My sister took this photo in her backyard in Melbourne, Australia, She said that it appeared that the beetle/bug was dragging the spider along and thought that the spider was the prey. Eventually the bug dropped the spider and she didn’t see what happened to either of them. You can probably tell from the photo that both spider and bug were pretty massive. I thought the bug might be some sort of assassin bug but it doesn’t really look too much like any of the photos of them I’ve been able to find on the net. Any ideas? Signature: Madeleine
Spider Wasp with Huntsman Spider
Hi Madeleine, This magnificent predator is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae and we believe it is Cryptocheilus bicolor which is pictured on the Brisbane Insect website.  The drama would seem to imply that the Spider Wasp is going to enjoy a large meal, but in fact, Spider Wasps feed on nectar.  Female Spider Wasps provision a nest with Spiders that are paralyzed, but not killed, by a sting.  The Spider Wasp lays a single egg on the paralyzed Spider which then provides a fresh meal for the larval wasp.  If the Spider was killed first, it would dry up and the wasp larva would starve.  Keeping the Spider paralyzed ensures a fresh meal for the larva.  Many Spider Wasps are selective about the types of Spiders they hunt, and Cryptocheilus bicolor is generally associated with Huntsman Spiders.  The nest is of this species is an underground burrow, and once the prey has been paralyzed, the Spider Wasp must transport the heavy load to the nest.  We believe the Spider Wasp climbs to a high point and glides with the prey since taking off in flight with so much weight would not be possible.  The bricks in this photo provide a nice sense of scale.
Spider Wasp with Huntsman Spider
Hi Daniel, Thank you so much for your quick and very informative response! This is definitely the insect that is pictured – the photo and behavioural traits match exactly… What an interesting life cycle! I will pass this information on to my sister who will be very pleased to see the “mystery” solved.  She will perhaps also be happy to know she has a native creepy crawly that is keeping the huntsman numbers down a little! Thanks again for getting back to me. Kind regards Madeleine

Letter 6 – Fishing Spider and Paper Wasp Nest


What’s That Arachnid/What’s That Wasp Location: Central Alabama August 20, 2011 8:35 am Dear Bugman: It is August in Alabama and I feel like I live in the Amazon. It’s hot, humid, and all of the giant spiders and bugs have come out to play. I found this spider in the corner of my porch next to some type of wasp nest. Could you help me identify both? Thank you! Signature: Southern Belle Besieged By Bugs
Fishing Spider and Paper Wasp Nest
Dear Southern Belle BBB, What a crazy photo this is.  The spider is a female Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes, and they are generally found not far from water.  The wasps are Paper Wasps in the genus Polistes.

Letter 7 – Spider Wasp from Singapore


Subject: Insect that Stores Dead Spiders Location: Singapore June 3, 2012 1:48 am Good Day What’s That Bug, I saw an insect about 1.5 inches in length flying around our house and when I followed it, it went in a corner of a CD rack under our TV. I took a close look and tried prying off the white thing that the insect visited, hoping it was something hard but it turned out to be very brittle. I was really curious and was hoping I could remove the nest from its location and transfer it on another place but I ended up destroying it. When I took an even closer look, I saw dead spiders in it. I left it alone and saw the insect coming back in its nest and flying away. Only to notice that it was carrying away the spiders. Now, all the spiders are gone and what’s left are the remains of the ’nest’ Signature: Joy
Spider Wasp and Prey
Hi Joy, This is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae.  The female Spider Wasp stings and paralyzes spiders as food for her brood.  The nest is often constructed of mud.  We are very happy that your Spider Wasp relocated all the prey she spent so much time hunting.  After sealing the spiders in the nest, she will lay a single egg in each nest chamber.  Since the spiders are paralyzed and not dead, they will be a supply of fresh meat for the larvae.  Dead spiders would quickly dry out and not be an attractive food for the larva.  Here is a link to a Spider Wasp from Singapore that we found in our archives.
Spider Wasp with Prey
Hi, Thanks for the reply Daniel. I’ve been seeing another insect that looks like a spider wasp flying around the house at the same time when I found the wasp in the pictures I sent. It looks smaller than the one I found. Aside from the high pain index in wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_wasp#Schmidt_Pain_Index), should I be alarmed with their presence? Thank you, Joy Spider Wasps are not aggressive towards humans, but they might sting if carelessly handled.  The Tarantula Hawks are reputed to have very painful stings, but again, they are not aggressive toward humans.  

Letter 8 – Zebra Spider Wasp from Australia


Subject: possible zebra spider wasp in western Australia Location: Boddington/Crossman western Australia January 12, 2013 11:49 pm I have recently out in my yard when I found this bug. I raced in side and got my camera anyway I was just wondering what the bug is. I had looked up zebra bug with no luck then I looked up zebra wasp and found a bug called the zebra spider hunting wasp. So is this what the bug is or is it something else. Signature: a reply to what the bug is
Zebra Spider Wasp
The Zebra Spider Wasp in the genus Turneromyia that is pictured on the Brisbane Insect Website is a visual match to your stunning wasp, so we concur that your identification is correct.

Letter 9 – Spider Wasp and Spider from Malaysia


Wasp and Spider Location: Malaysia January 22, 2014 2:45 pm Dear Mr Marlos, This is the stream in which that spider was found. Incidentally just for your interest as i was standing on one of these boulders this blue winged insect (perhaps a wasp?) the size of my big toe landed, when if flew off it left this carcass of a large spider it had been carrying about underneath. N.Sathesh
Spider Wasp:  Deuteragenia ossarium???
Hi again N. Sathesh, Your new images have us very intrigued and we are creating a brand new posting.  This blue winged creature is most definitely a wasp, but we are not certain if it is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompillidae.  The situation with the spider is very interesting.  We believe the Wasp bit the legs off the Spider to make it easier to transport.  In situations like this where a Wasp preys on a Spider or other insect, the prey is generally paralyzed to provide a food source for a larva.  We will try to identify this fascinating Wasp.  It resembles this Spider Wasp from Borneo on Alex Hyde’s website.
Spider with legs Amputated
Spider with legs Amputated
Update:  14 May 2016 Thanks to a comment from Bukit Lawang, we are able to provide a link to this Spider Wasp, Deuteragenia ossarium, on the College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) site where it was selected as one of the Top 10 New Species discovered the previous year and named the Bone-House Wasp.  While we have no problem now classifying this as a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae, we are not fully convinced it is a Bone-House Wasp.  According to ESF:  ” This insect, which tops out at about a half-inch (15mm) in length, has a unique way to protect its offspring. The wasp constructs nests in hollow stems with several cells, each separated by soil walls. The wasp kills and deposits one spider in each cell to provide nourishment for her developing young.  Once her egg is laid, she seals off the cell and hunts a spider for the next cell. Rather than provisioning the final or vestibule cell with a spider, she fills it with as many as 13 bodies of dead ants, thus creating a chemical barrier to the nest. This is the first animal known to take this approach to securing the front door to a nest. This species, found in Gutianshan National Nature Reserve in eastern China, has significantly lower parasitism rates than similar cavity-nesting wasps. Camouflage is supplied by a veil of volatile chemicals emitted by the dead ants, thwarting enemies that hunt wasp larvae by scent.”     

Letter 10 – Possibly Two Spider Wasps from Namibia


Subject: 3 Namibian Insects Location: Namibia November 18, 2015 9:44 am Hello Daniel. By coincidence I spotted your great website. I was in Namibia this year. Could you please help me to identify these 3 insects? Thanks a lot in advance, Bye-bye, Becky from Munich-Germany Details to Image 1: Namutoni Restcamp, Etosha NP-Namibia, on our picnic blanket, 07-May-2015, 4pm, size about 2 inch (5cm) Details to Image 2: at the Hoba Meteorite near Grootfontein-Namibia, 09-May-2015, 11am, size about 0.4 inch (1cm) Details to Image 3: Anderson Campsite, Waterberg-Namibia, 11-May-2015, 9am, size about 0.3 inch (8mm) Signature: Becky, Munich-Germany
Spider Wasp
Spider Wasp
Dear Becky, We believe both Image 1 and Image 2 are Spider Wasps in the family Pompilidae.  We found a nice visual match to image 1 on iSpot, and your image clearly shows spines on the legs which agree with this BugGuide description for the family:  “Slender with long and spiny legs, hind femora typically extending beyond tip of abdomen.  Tibiae of rear legs have two prominent spines at apex (distal end, next to tarsi).”  We found a close visual match to image 2 on iSpot as well where it is identified as probably in the genus Hemipepsis.  Female Spider Wasps hunt and sting Spiders, paralyzing them but not killing them.  The female then drags the spider to her underground nest where she buries it and lays an egg.  When the egg hatches, it has a live, but paralyzed spider to feed upon.
Spider Wasp
Spider Wasp
Hello Daniel. Thanks a lot for the prompt answer. Wow, you guys are great! That you´ve found 2 visual matches. I have stared for hours at google-pics, insect sites, etc. As a kid, I never was so fond of insects, but the diversity of all of them really fascinates me now. That´s why I did not only made pics of “common” animals like Lion, giraffe, etc., but insects as well. But they are so hard to id.!! Thanks again Daniel, and a lot of succes with your website (I´ve put it into my favourites) Bye-bye, Becky from Munich-Germany

Letter 11 – Spider Wasp from Panama


Subject: Beautiful Wasp Location: Chiriqui, panama November 12, 2016 8:27 pm Hi Bugman, I saw this wasp at a gas station in Panama in October. A tour guide said it was a spider hawk but the internet pictures of those show they have orange wings. The closest thing I found to this is the great black wasp but the wings are not the same shape. Any ideas? Signature: Lori Mailloux
Spider Wasp
Spider Wasp
Dear Lori, We agree with the tour guide that this is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae, and Tarantula Hawks belong to a genera of Spider Wasps, and many, but not all, have orange wings.  Alas, we have not had any luck finding any matching images online.

Letter 12 – Spider Wasp from Chile


Subject: Tarantula hawk? Location: Rauco, Maule, Chile April 6, 2017 6:16 pm I spotted this beautiful looking insect in my garden in central Chile today, I’ve looked about online and it seems to look like a Tarantula hawk! wow. The only other pictures that look the same, with the metallic blue colour and orange anteni, were from Puerto Rico and Cosa Rica , so surprising to see one all the way down here. Also, slightly concerning that when I saw it my puppy was playing with it, the sting being described as “like a lightning bolt struck the spot, the pain is beyong imagination” on a BBC article I read. Did my puppy have a lucky escape? The picture isn’t great quality, sorry, but I thought it would be worth a look! Signature: Tristan
Spider Wasp
Dear Tristan, Even before beginning any research, we are confident that this is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae, the same family that includes Tarantula Hawks.  To Be Continued … …  The image of a Tarantula Hawk with its prey from Chile posted on Birdspiders.com and taken by Arachnologist Rick C. West proves the genus Pepsis, the Tarantula Hawks, is represented in Chile.  Instagram also contains an image of Pepsis limbata from Chile, but both of those example are of orange winged Tarantula Hawks with black antennae.  A North American species pictured on BugGuide, Entypus fulvicornis, is colored like your individual.  Of the genus, BugGuide indicates:  “The genus is found practically transcontinentally but some species have restricted ranges”  and “Adults provision a pre-existing cavity or modification of a pre-existing cavity with a Lycosid spider.”  Since it preys upon Wolf Spiders, it is theoretically NOT a Tarantula Hawk, but of the genus Pepsis, BugGuide states:  “The related Spider Wasp genera, Hemipepsis and Entypus, are also quite large and can look very similar to Pepsis. These three genera are best distinguished by details of wing venation.”  BugGuide also has a nice comparison of the wing veination patterns of several genera in the tribe Pepsini.  If you still have the specimen, that comparison may help you identify the genus of your gorgeous Spider Wasp, that might be a Tarantula Hawk.  If your puppy captured this impressive Spider Wasp while it was alive, your puppy was indeed lucky to have avoided a sting.  The USU.edu site does have a Spider Wasp page with a listing of members of both the genus Pepsis and the genus Entypus from Chile.  We could not locate any images of Entypus lepeletieri online, and the other listed species is actually a subspecies, Entypus unifasciatus dumosus.   BugGuide does have images of orange tipped black winged Entypus unifasciatus, however the subspecies pictured are different than the subspecies found in Chile.  Insectoid lists 10 subspecies of Entypus unifasciatus, including E. unifasciatus dumosus, but there is no image available.  We believe we have exhausted our potential internet research at this time. Thank you for the very informative reply. I thought I saved it from my puppy, but perhaps it was the other way round. I wish I kept it or got more photos, but it managed to fly away after multiple puppy pounces/nibbles. Spider wasps are certainly tough!

Letter 13 – Spider Wasp from Idaho


Subject:  Black wasp with orange wings Geographic location of the bug:  In Genesee id Date: 10/13/2018 Time: 09:21 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman:  Hey, so I have never seen one of these before… Google said it is a tarantula wasp??? Just curious what it is… How you want your letter signed:  Shara cook
Spider Wasp
Dear Shara, Tarantula Hawks are Spider Wasps in the genera Pepsis and Hemipepsis that prey on Tarantulas, and according to BugGuide data, the latter genus is not found as far north as Idaho, and similarly, BugGuide data on the genus Pepsis also shows a more southern range.  Other Spider Wasps have similar coloration.  Your individual might be Calopompilus pyrrhomelas which is pictured on BugGuide and reported from Idaho based on BugGuide data. Are they dangerous, or like a normal sting or bite?   I picked it up with a leaf , and put it in the sun.   It was cold on my porch. Spider Wasps are not aggressive towards humans, and Tarantula Hawks are reported to have very painful stings.  Since your individual is also a member of the tribe Pepsini that includes Tarantula Hawks, it might also have a painful sting.  Again, Spider Wasps are not aggressive, but they can sting.


  • 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.

  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. 🙂

  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?

  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?

  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.

    • 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”

  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.


    • 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.

  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.


  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.

  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.

  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.


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