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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 couple 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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of the most beautiful creatures in the wasp kingdom belong to the thread-waisted wasp family.
These insects have often been the reason for our readers emailing us and asking questions about them.
While we have tried to cover quite a few of them in the article, please go through some of our older emails that encompass a broader range of these magnificent creatures.
Letter 1 – Cutworm Wasp
digger wasp? April 19, 2010 i am pretty sure this is a digger wasp, but was wondering if you could tell me what kind. would be really cool if you could also tell me what kind of caterpillar it is, but not sure this picture would help as much with that. the picture was taken in the antelope valley, near lancaster, california naaman antelope valley california poppy reserve Dear naaman, We believe we have correctly identified your Thread Waisted Wasp as a Cutworm Wasp in the genus Podalonia based on photos posted to BugGuide and your documentation of the wasp about to bury a Cutworm Caterpillar. According to BugGuide they are: “Parasitoids of Noctuidae (cutworm) caterpillars. Excavate nest after finding prey, reversal of the order for most sphecids. One caterpillar is placed in each cell. P. luctuosa has two flights per year in Michigan. Second brood overwinters in burrows, sometimes with others of the species. Other species have one generation per year.” BugGuide does not indicate how to identify species within the genus. Correction thanks to Eric Eaton May 7, 2010 Daniel: I’m quite certain the “cutworm wasp” posted on April 19 is actually a species of Ammophila rather than Podalonia. Tough to call from that angle, but I don’t know any Podalonia that resemble this wasp. Eric
Letter 2 – Tread Waisted Wasp preys upon Caterpillar
Solitary Burrowing Hunting Wasp ? Location: Traverse City, Michigan June 20, 2011 4:23 pm I watched this muscular wasp bring in a large larva. It was right at the entrance to it’s burrow on the beach at D H Day Campground, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan, but seemed nervous with me watching. Instead of taking it into the burrow it dragged up up a small plant nearby. With it safely hid, it buzzed me until I backed away. Do you know the name of this wasp? Signature: Bill Dear Bill, The Thread-Waisted Wasps in the genus Ammophila are known to prey upon Cutworms that they use to provision underground nests for their brood. Of the species represented on BugGuide, we believe your wasp looks the most like Ammophila nigricans.
Letter 3 – A Reader Chastises Us for Failing to Educate
Failing to educate July 17, 2011 6:26 am I was just reading your response to Evan McIntosh regarding eradication of great black wasps. You wrote, “…it has always been our mission to educate the public with regards to insects, spiders and other creatures that might appear to be frightening, but are actually quite benign or even beneficial. The Great Black Wasp is one of those insects.” You were quick to judge Evan by classifying his post under “Unnecessary Carnage” and claim to have education as your primary mission, yet do not provide one useful piece of info in your response. Did you think to describe WHY the great black wasp is beneficial? Next time, try educating first, and judging second. For me, I’m exterminating these wasps because my 3 yr old is afraid to leave the front door, where they “patrol” constantly, and my wife doesn’t like them getting into our home through the basement. I’d rather study bees and wasps with him on my terms, not theirs. I’d be happy to send a nice photo if you want more for your ” Unnecessary Carnage” file. Signature: Paul Bradley Dear Paul, From our perspective, providing information like “According to BugGuide, the female Great Black Wasps: ‘Provision nests (in burrow in soft earth) with Katydids or grasshoppters [sic]. (Univ. Florida lists: Tettigoniidae in genera Microcentrum and Scudderia.) Usually about three are placed in a nest‘” would be considered educating the public regarding the importance the Great Black Wasp fulfills in the food chain. Without a predator to keep other species in check [Read about the Ensign Wasp that parasitizes the ootheca of Cockroaches], there might be a population explosion of a single species that just might throw the entire ecosystem out of whack. Thank you for offering, but you don’t need to send us any more photos of dead insects. Educational Entry: The Great Black Wasp, Sphex pensylvanicus, is a Thread Waisted Wasp that is also known as the Katydid Hunter according to BugGuide. Here is a photo by Sarah from Ontario, Canada and also from our archives on July 30th, 2008.
Letter 4 – Big, Menacing, Invasion Stiped Bees!
Hi Bugman! (Awsome site, BTW)We have new visitors in our yard (and in my camper). Large cylindrical bees or hornets, nearly 2″ long, black with three white stripes. They look like WWII fighters patrolling over London whenever you get near. Help! I’m ready to give them my tractor AND my camper! russ therrien hollywood, MD Hi Russ, I’m guessing Bald Faced Hornets, Dolichovespula maculata. These are social wasps that build a large paper nest from regurgitated wood pulp. The nests can be over a foot across that can contain 10,000 hornets. They are aggressive and do not like intruders near the nest and they will sting painfully, swarming and chasing the perpetrator. Unlike bees which die upon stinging, hornets can sting multiple times and live to tell. I hope you don’t have fields to plow or rubber to burn in the near future. I think your tractor and camper are lost to you until the frost which will kill the workers, but the queen hibernates and begins a new colony in the spring. (9/2/2003) Hey, my friend found this weird nest/cocoon thing in his shed and its really weird and if you could tell us what its from thatd be great. Its grey and its made of like mud and clay and on the inside it was full of dead house flies.it was made in the secind story of his shed, and it was stuck to the side of the wall. the top was rounded with a closed hole and on the bottom there was an open hole. the walls are about about 3mm thick. the flies look like there trapped in some kind of webbing, but not.We live in a small town in Ontario canada. Were about an hour from toronto. Thats pretty much it. If you could get back to me as soon as possible thatd be great casue this thing is really gross and creepy. Thanks. James and Shannon Dear James and Shannon, You found the nest of a mud wasp. Your wasp prefers flies as food. I have a mud nest from the black & yellow mud dauber, Sceliphron caementarium. on my back wall and will post it with your letter in the near future. They generally sting spiders to fill the nest, then lay eggs on the paralyzed spiders and when the young wasps hatch, they have a fresh meal, eating the comatose spiders alive.
Letter 5 – Hanging Thief devours Thread-Waist Wasp
I caught this carnage in my garden, is this a Robber Fly? Thanks
What a gorgeous photograph. This is not just a Robber Fly, it is more specifically a Hanging Thief in the genus Diogmites feeding on a Thread Waist Wasp in the family Sphecidae. That Hanging Thief is demonstrating how it earned its common name. We have issues with your use of the term Carnage. Our Unnecessary Carnage page is reserved for Insects and other small minunderstood creatures that have met with a messy end thanks to human intervention. Awesome documentation like your image goes to our Food Chain page as part of the wonders of nature.
Letter 6 – Thread Waisted Wasp: Eremnophila aureonotata
Black Thin Waisted Insect August 7, 2009 Like to know what kind of I think wasp this is. It is jet black and thin waisted. Doesn’t matter Long Island, New York Hi again Doesn’t Matter, The significant identifying feature of your Thread Waisted Wasp, according to BugGuide is: “The blue-black body and silve[r] (sic)/gold patches are distinctive. The patches may wear off in older individuals (Troy Bartlett).” BugGuide also indicates: “Female digs burrow and provisions with a single large lepidopteran larvae. These are reported to include various moths from the families Noctuidae, Notodontidae (especially), and Sphingidae, and also skippers (Hesperidae). The wasp is commonly found on wildflowers with large clusters of blossoms, such as Queen Anne’s Lace, from summer into fall. One frequently observes mating pairs on the flowers.” We suspect this is a female prowling among the foliage for caterpillars to feed her brood. Your wonderful photos represent the first time this species is represented on our site, to our best recollection.
Letter 7 – Hanging Thief feeds upon Thread-Waisted Wasp
Mortal Kombat Location: Gloucester Twp, Camden County, NJ July 19, 2010 3:11 pm This brutal assault was in our front yard. The amber winged-warrior was the perched assailant, snatching its ill-fated victim from mid-flight. We’d like to know what they are. Research suggests the Amber is Ophion Luteus, a parasitic wasp, while the other seems to be Ammophilia procera or possibly even Ammophila conditor? The tail marking seems to suggest the latter, though sites indicate this is a little known or observed wasp (if correct). Chris Hi Chris, This magnificent predator is a Robber Fly in the genus Diogmites, a group known as the Hanging Thieves because of the way they often hang from a single foot while devouring their prey, exactly as your fabulous photographs demonstrate. We do not feel confident identifying this Hanging Thief to the species level, but you can view BugGuide for additional details. We believe you may be correct on the Wasp identification. It sure does look like one of the Thread-Waisted Wasps in the genus Ammophila based on images posted to BugGuide, but again, we do not feel confident taking the identification to the species level.
Letter 8 – Blue Thread Waisted Wasp
Blue Winged Digger Wasp – digging Location: Eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau, rural Tennessee July 5, 2011 11:05 am Hello Daniel. I must admit, I was concerned when I saw a hole in my freshly replanted bean bed, and saw what looked like a wasp going into it, but after reading your earlier postings on the Blue Winged wasp, and that she was probably taking care of Japanese beetles, I was glad. She’s welcome here! She busily removed and scattered soil fanned out from the hole for several minutes, but was difficult to get to stop for sharper photos! A short while later, the hole was filled and invisible. Thanks again for your informative work! Bob Kieffer Signature: Bob Kieffer Hi Bob, We postponed posting your submission because we were trying to identify your digging Wasp, which should not be confused with a Digger Wasp. In our opinion, this is a Thread Waisted Wasp in the family Sphecidae. We believe this may be Palmodes dimidiatus, a species with no common name, but which is shown on BugGuide preying upon different Shield-Back Katydids. Here is the BugGuide information page.
Letter 9 – Thread Waisted Wasp from Singapore, we believe
identity unknown Location: pulau ubin, singapore August 23, 2011 8:51 am hello mr bugman, please Identify my black fly. i found this bug digging in the white sand until it make a whole. Signature: anything Dear anything, We believe this is a Thread Waisted Wasp in the family Sphecidae, and we are struck by the similarity between your wasp’s face and this Great Golden Digger Wasp posted to BugGuide. We believe your Asian species may be closely related to our North American species. The female Great Golden Digger Wasp provisions her nest with paralyzed Katydids to feed her brood. Thanks for your effort. But thread-waisted wasp has a red color near the its tail but my one is a pure black . For a moment i will use the name you given to me. Thanks The family Sphecidae is known as the Thread Waisted Wasps and it probably contains thousands of species world wide.
Letter 10 – Crescent Butterfly and Thread Waist Wasp share blossom
winged umbrella Location: Jamestown, RI September 8, 2011 9:50 am Hello Again – Found these two on a rudbeckia recently. Wondering what kind of moth/butterfly this might be shading what I think is a thread waisted wasp. Signature: PeeGee Hi PeeGee, We really like your photo of a Crescent Butterfly and a Thread Waist Wasp sharing the nectar from the Black Eyed Susan. We believe the wasp is probably in the genus Ammophila, based on these photos from BugGuide. If our identification is correct, the wasps prey upon cutworms to provision a nest for their progeny.
Letter 11 – Unknown Gold Backed Wasp from Florida
Black and Gold Wasp Location: Pace, Florida August 25, 2011 11:56 pm Dear Bugman, I found this black and gold wasp, dead unfortunately, on the pavement at work. As you can see in the picture, that’s a quarter lying next to it for general measurement purposes. I have never seen anything like this before now. It may not even be a wasp but perhaps a fly of some sort. Any ideas??? Signature: Jimmy Hi Jimmy, When it comes to flashy yet understated elegance, this unfamiliar Wasp wins tail’s up. We might have an identification in the near future. Eric Eaton provides an identification Hi, Daniel: This is a female Sphex habenus. The species is in the family Sphecidae and they prey on katydids. Eric Thanks Eric, We will link to the BugGuide information page on the species.