Thread-Waisted Wasp from Australia

Subject: What is this?
Location: Whitsunday Islands, Queensland, Australia
January 11, 2014 9:08 pm
We saw this large black flying insect all over the beaches in the Whitsunday Islands. They were about 1.5 inches long, maybe a centimetre wide. They burrow into holes in the sand. They didn’t seem very interested in people, mostly ignoring us.
What on earth is it??
Signature: Jenny

Thread-Waisted Wasp
Thread-Waisted Wasp

Hi Jenny,
We don’t believe we will be able to provide you with a species identification based on your photos, but we can give you a more general family and subfamily identification.  This is most likely a Thread-Waisted Wasp in the family Sphecidae, and we are basing this on the anatomy of the wasp in your images, specifically the narrow “wasp waist” as well as the burrowing behavior.  Furthermore, we believe it is in the subfamily Sphecinae.  The Brisbane Insect website describes the subfamily:  “Wasps in subfamily Sphecinae are usually black in colour, from medium to large size. They have the abdomen link with thorax with very slender cylindrical stalk-like petiole, i.e. the thread-waist. They predatory on Orthoptera, including grasshoppers and katydids. Females build nest for their young by digging long tunnel in sandy ground. “

Sphecid Wasp
Sphecid Wasp digging

Your photos are most interesting to us on a behavioral level of the subfamily rather than as images of a specific species.

Thread-Waisted Wasp
Thread-Waisted Wasp

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