The Thread-Waisted Wasp: Nature’s Precision Hunter

This is a guide to everything you want to know regarding thread waisted wasps.

Have you seen an insect with a black body and a tiny thread-like waist connecting the abdomen flying around flowers?

These insects are called thread-waisted wasps.

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These fascinating creatures are sworn enemies of garden pests like grasshoppers, cockroaches, aphids, spiders, and more.

They are also capable of delivering painful stings to humans.

Now, you might be wondering if they are beneficial or harmful. Read the article to know the answer!

thread waisted wasp
Thread-Waisted Wasp with Cutworm Prey

What Are Thread Waisted Wasps?

Thread-waisted wasps get their name from the narrow, thread-like waist on their bodies.

These glossy black wasps with long, skinny abdomens have long, thin legs that allow them to hunt better by letting them hold onto things.

These species of wasps are mostly solitary, with large, glossy eyes on the sides of the head.

They belong to the Sphecidae family and usually grow to a size of about 0.40-1.18 inches.

Since they have a stinger, these insects are often considered dangerous, but they are not.

They use stingers to hunt down garden pests like aphids and spiders to feed the larvae.

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Thread Waisted Wasp Types

Mud Dauber wasps

Mud dauber wasps belong to the Spchecidae family. They get their names from their ability to build free-standing nests of mud.

These insects live around forests, woodlands, urban areas, and heath.

Adult wasps rely on nectar from flowers to complete their diets, while the larvae depend on spiders and other pests that are hunted down by the female wasp.

The female paralyzes the prey by stinging it and later carries it to the mud chambers for the larvae to feed on.

These wasps can deliver painful stings. However, they are non-aggressive toward humans.

Thread-Waisted Wasp: Sphex lucae

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Black digger wasp

Black digger wasps are also commonly known as great black wasps. These wasps show an average growth of 0.86-1.1 inches in length.

The black digger wasps have black bodies with wings that emit a unique blue iridescent sheen.

Here, only the females have stingers they use to immobilize their prey. Also, if you look closely, you will notice fine hair on their body.

The adult female relies on nectar and hunts common species of pests like grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids to feed the larva.

You can find them flying around flower beds during the summer, from July to August.

Golden digger wasp

Golden digger wasps are known for their vividly colored bodies with a touch of gold.

These insects have stingers but use them for hunting down their prey. Like the ones on the list, they, too, paralyze the hunt and carry it to their nest to feed the larva.

However, on their way back to the nest, the females are harassed by birds like robins. These birds try to steal her prey.

They build individual nests by creating burrows in loose soil. They then stuff these holes with eggs and paralyzed insects for the larvae to eat.

Ensign wasps

Ensign wasps have a tiny abdomen connected through a thread-like waist. The abdomen resembles a triangular flag.

These insects look a lot like flies and have solid black bodies.

Ensign wasps are excellent at eliminating cockroach populations. The adult female tracks a sack of cockroach eggs and lays an egg of her own in the cluster.

The wasp larva hatches and eats the roach eggs as a significant food source.

These insects do not harm humans; having them around the house is a great method to control cockroach populations.

Thread-Waisted Wasp

What Do Thread Waisted Wasps Eat?

Thread-waisted wasps are usually known for their nesting and hunting habits. They use their stinger to inject neurotoxins into the prey’s body to immobilize it.

The paralyzed insect is then carried to the nest, where it is stored for the larvae.

The adults rely on nectar, fruit juices, and honeydew from aphids. You can spot these insects flying around the flower beds in search of sweet nectar.

Various species of mud daubers, digger wasps, and more hunt pests like grasshoppers, aphids, roaches, and more.

Other thread-waisted wasps, like ensign wasps, are parasitoids; the larva consumes the cluster of cockroach eggs in which it hatches.

Where Do Thread Waisted Wasps Live?

Thread-waisted wasps are usually solitary insects. Unlike yellow jackets and paper wasps, they do not live in wasp colonies.

These wasps build a nest out of mud and twigs. Mud daubers make mud chambers to lay eggs. The digger wasps build underground holes to create nests.

Some species of thread-waisted wasps are parasitoids; they do not build their own nests; they lay eggs in other insects’ nests.

The larvae hatch and consume the other eggs in the cluster.

The females prefer to build nests around areas with abundant food sources nearby.

Life Cycle of Thread-Waisted Wasps

Thread-waisted wasps undergo the complete four stages of metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

After mating, the female starts searching for an ideal spot to lay the eggs. As mentioned above, the wasp nest is built around areas with abundant food sources.

Thread-Waisted Wasp

In the case of parasitoid wasps, they track the host insects and lay an egg on their bodies or nests.

Species like mud dauber wasps hunt insects by stinging and immobilizing them.

The paralyzed prey is then carried to the nest and stuffed in a mud cell. Once the insect is stuffed, the female lays an egg on the mud cell.

Unlike other aggressive wasps, these insects do not guard their nests. The female leaves the nest after putting in food and laying the eggs.

Within a few days, the larva hatches and starts consuming the paralyzed insect in the mud cell or nest to gain the necessary nutrients.

In many cases, the larva saves the vital organs of the paralyzed insect for the last, so that the prey stays alive and fresh for the later stages. Bizarre right?

In the case of parasitoids like ensign wasp larvae, they consume the cockroach eggs to attain the required nutrients and energy.

Once they finish consuming the available food, these insects start building a pupa around the body.

In most cases, the larvae overwinter as pupae and emerge as beautiful and active adults in spring.

As adults, common species of thread-waisted wasps drink nectar. They mate shortly after emerging.

Mating Rituals of Thread-Waisted Wasps

Various species of wasps, like sand wasps, cuckoo wasps, paper wasps, etc., have different mating rituals.

In this section, we will discuss the mating rituals of thread-waisted wasps. You must know that these rituals can get aggressive at times.

For example, the mating habits of digger wasps are quite gruesome. Here, the bigger male tries to wrestle the female and immobilize her so they can start mating.

The female kicks and turns to resist the intercourse.

The mating habits of Ammophila Procera can also be aggressive. Here, the male uses the mandibles to grab the female’s head from behind while she is collecting nectar.

These species are polygynandrous, where both females and males mate multiple times with different partners.

Mating Thread-Waisted Wasps

How Long Do Thread Waisted Wasps Live?

Various species of thread-waisted wasps have different lifespans. However, adult wasps do not live for long.

A healthy thread-waisted wasp can only survive for a few days. They spend most of their time mating and collecting nectar.

In rare cases, they are hunted down by additional wasp species, birds, mammals, and more.

Do They Bite/Sting?

Thread-waisted wasps have stingers, and they are capable of delivering painful stings.

But thankfully, these insects are not aggressive; they refrain from attacking humans unless it is crucial. If you want to stay safe from the stings, do not threaten them.

Are They Poisonous/Venomous?

No, thread-waisted wasps are not poisonous or venomous to humans. However, if you are allergic to wasp stings, you must seek medical advice after being stung.

Are They Harmful or Beneficial to Humans?

Thread-waisted wasps are known for their aggressive hunting habits and painful stings. But, as mentioned above, they are not aggressive toward humans.

These insects can be an excellent source to control pests in your homes and gardens naturally.

They are experts in hunting down grasshoppers, aphids, spiders, and other pests.

Also, these insects are decent pollinators, as the adult flies from flower to flower in search of nectar, thus promoting cross-pollination.

What Are Thread Waisted Wasps Attracted To?

Thread-waisted wasps (the adults) are fond of nectar. Hence, you can find them around the flowering garden.

Also, some of the species love to consume the honeydew left by aphids on leaves.

Thread-waisted wasps prefer to build nests in areas with abundant prey options so they can hunt easily to feed the larvae.

Thread-Waisted Wasp

How to Get Rid of Thread-Waisted Wasps

Yes, these insects are not aggressive and have several benefits. However, if you are allergic to wasp stings, you must eliminate them immediately.

Here are a few quick and easy ways to deal with thread-waisted wasp populations in your home and garden.

  • Purchase a wasp trap and install it near places where these insects appear. The wasp trap will lure the insect into falling into liquid, where they drown. You must keep cleaning the traps regularly, as dead wasps in place look creepy.
  • Keep your house and garden pest free. Garden pests are a significant food source for larvae. If no food sources are available near your home, these insects will refrain from building a nest nearby.
  • If you are scared of handling or eliminating these insects and the nests, call professionals to help you out.
  • If you find mud dauber nests in your house, carefully check if the est has a big hole. This indicates that the larvae have left the nest. Scrape the nest off only if you see that hole. Otherwise, do not touch it without professional assistance.

Interesting Facts About Thread-Waisted Wasps

Thread-waisted wasps are a large family of wasps, and there are many fascinating facts revolving around these insects.

Let us take a look at a few of them:

  • Golden digger wasps are often harassed by birds like robins while they bring a paralyzed insect back to their nest. These birds attack the wasp to force it to drop the prey. Once the female reaches the nest safely with prey, she inspects the insects before stuffing the immobilized hunt.
  • At times thread-waisted wasps snip off the limbs of the insect to stuff it inside the hole easily.
  • The wasp larva consumes the paralyzed insects by leaving the vital organs for the last stages. This keeps the insect alive and fresh.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can we treat the sting of a wasp?

If stung by an insect, remove the stinger right away and apply ice to the site for 20 minutes once every hour.
Take antihistamines and pain relievers as needed. Wash the sting site with soap and water and apply hydrocortisone cream to relieve redness, itching, and swelling.
If it’s been more than 10 years since your last tetanus booster, get one within the next few days. Most insect stings require no additional medical care.

What is the scientific name of a thread-waisted wasp?

Ammophila procera is the scientific name of the common thread-waisted wasps found in southern Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Central America.
They live in open areas with soft or sandy soil and burrow nests. The female digs the burrow, memorizes landmarks, and uses them to locate the burrow when returning.

Do thread-waisted wasp sting humans?

Thread-waisted wasps have stingers that can deliver painful stings, but they are not aggressive toward humans unless threatened.
They are not poisonous or venomous, but those allergic to wasp stings should seek medical advice.
Thread-waisted wasps are beneficial for controlling pests in homes and gardens, as they hunt down grasshoppers, aphids, spiders, and other pests.
They are also decent pollinators, as they search for nectar in flowers, promoting cross-pollination.

How to get rid of thread-waisted wasps?

Thread-waisted wasps are not aggressive and have benefits, but they should be eliminated if you are allergic to their stings.
You can use a wasp trap, keep your home and garden pest-free, or call professionals for help.
If you find mud dauber nests, check for larvae before removing it or seek professional assistance.

Wrap Up

Thread-waisted wasps are beautiful insects that look like skinny black wasps.

These insects are known for the tiny waist that connects the upper body to the abdomen.

Various species of these insects have been known for their hunting and nesting habits. The adults hunt pests to feed the larvae.

However, they themselves do not consume these insects. The adults rely on nectar to fulfill their diets.

These insects are non-aggressive but can deliver painful stings, which can be lethal for people allergic to wasp stings.

Use tools like wasp traps to eliminate them before they cause you or your family any harm.

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.

9 thoughts on “The Thread-Waisted Wasp: Nature’s Precision Hunter”

  1. Did Mr Paul Bradley fail to read Mr Mcintosh’s comment ” They do not bother humans or try to bite but are rather annoying when a bunch are buzzing around.” Clearly the man said that they were not harming anyone, the wasps were just “rather annoying”. How was that a rush to judgment on WTB part? I guess Mr Bradley is just sensitive because he recognizes his own jackassery since he too randomly kills beneficial insects that in no way endanger his family because they are not on his property on “his terms”.

    I find it rather annoying that this poster does not recognize that this is not a paid service.

    Reply
  2. If you are interested, there is a specimen of this specie on display (amongst other insects) at the South Florida Science Museum. I know this because I collected it myself in the adjoining Dreher Park while I was assisting in its construction. It seemed like it would lend itself well to display so I contributed it (along with a handful of other specimens to the display.

    Reply
  3. This actually makes me feel kind of good about myself. I saw one of these buzzing in my open window on my side of the screen window, and I would normally be quick to try and kill it. I was quick to jump over to my computer and read what it said, finding out it was harmless. So I caught it with a glass cup and a birthday card I had from a while ago and brought it outside and let it go. But one thing does concern me, You say these are COMPLETELY black, while the one I had had some stripes of yellow on the legs and near the neck. Unfortunately I was quicker to get it outside rather than get a picture of it, but was just curious as to what it meant, or if I was wrong about the kind of wasp it was.

    Reply

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