Tiphiid Wasp: All You Need to Know – Essential Guide for Curious Minds

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Tiphiid wasps are fascinating creatures worthy of your attention. These solitary hunting wasps play a vital role in controlling beetle populations, as their larvae are parasitic to beetle larvae, primarily those of scarab beetles. With their black coloration and yellow banding, they are both intriguing and visually striking.

As you further explore the world of Tiphiid wasps, you’ll come across various species, like the Five-banded tiphiid (Myzinum). These wasps not only contribute to pest control but also assist in pollination while feeding on nectar from flowers like goldenrods.

Being aware of these wasps and their importance can help you appreciate the delicate balance in nature. The next time you encounter a tiphiid wasp, you can admire its beauty and role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

The Tiphiid Wasp Family

The Tiphiid wasp family, also known as Family Tiphiidae, is a group of wasps that belong to the order Hymenoptera. These wasps, commonly called “flower wasps,” are found in many parts of the world but are largely tropical.

Family Tiphiidae comprises a variety of species, each with unique characteristics. For instance, the Five-banded tiphiid (Myzinum) is a visually striking member of this wasp family. When it comes to identification, you can often recognize these wasps by their elongated bodies and distinctive markings.

Tiphiid wasps play a vital role in the ecosystem as pollinators. They are known to visit prairie wildflowers like goldenrods, where they sip nectar and help with pollination. This shows their positive impact on the environment.

Here are some key features of the Tiphiid wasp family:

  • Belongs to the order Hymenoptera
  • Largely found in tropical regions
  • Pollinators that visit a variety of wildflowers
  • Distinct markings, aiding in identification

In conclusion, understanding the Tiphiid wasp family can help you appreciate their importance in maintaining balance in the ecosystem. So next time you encounter one of these fascinating insects, take a moment to observe their unique qualities and their contribution to the environment.

Species and Classification

Tiphiid Wasps belong to the family Tiphiidae within the order Hymenoptera. They are a diverse group of wasps mainly found in the tropical regions, but also a presence in other climate types. These wasps are commonly known as flower wasps due to their preference for nectar from flowers like goldenrods.

Classification Details

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda

Distinctive Features

Size and Abdomen

Tiphiid Wasps belong to the superfamily Vespoidea, which is a part of the order Hymenoptera, including bees and other wasps. They come in varying sizes, but generally, they are medium-sized insects. One unique characteristic of Tiphiid Wasps is their abdomen shape. Their abdomen has an upcurved hook which helps to distinguish them from other wasps. For example, Tiphiid Flower Wasps have a distinctive curved abdomen.

Wingless and Ground-Dwelling

Unlike many other wasps, some species of Tiphiid Wasps are wingless, making them quite unique among Hymenoptera. These wingless species are fossores or fossorial, meaning they are ground-dwelling insects. They have specially adapted coxae, the first segment of their legs, which help them in digging and moving through the soil.

Stinging Wasps

Tiphiid Wasps are part of the stinging wasps category, but their sting might not be as painful as you might expect. Although they have the ability to sting, they generally use it to paralyze their prey rather than as a self-defense mechanism against potential threats.

In summary, some interesting features of Tiphiid Wasps include:

  • Part of the Hymenoptera order which includes bees and other wasps
  • Generally medium-sized insects, with varying sizes among different genera
  • Distinctive upcurved hook on their abdomen, like in the case of Tiphiid Flower Wasps
  • Some species are wingless and ground-dwelling
  • Possess a sting but rarely use it for self-defense

Remember to approach these fascinating insects with caution, as they still have the ability to sting if they feel threatened. Enjoy observing them while maintaining a safe distance.

Lifecycle and Behavior

Larvae and Food

When it comes to larvae and food, tiphiid wasp larvae are known for their unique feeding habits. They primarily feed on scarab beetle larvae. You can find the wasp larvae consuming these beetle larvae, which helps in controlling their populations.

Besides beetle larvae, tiphiid wasps also depend on other food sources. Adult wasps often feed on nectar and pollen from flowers, helping with pollination in the process.

Predatory and Parasitoids

Tiphiid wasps serve as both predators and parasitoids in nature. As predators, they help control pest populations by preying on various insects such as ants, bees, beetles, and sawflies. As parasitoids, they play a significant role in the biological control of pests. Parasitoid tiphiid wasps lay their eggs inside other insects, allowing their larvae to feed on the host insect.

Pros of Tiphiid Wasps as Biological Control Agents:

  • Effective in controlling population of pests
  • Do not harm humans or the environment

Cons of Tiphiid Wasps as Biological Control Agents:

  • May not be the sole solution to pest control
  • Can be challenging to manage and predict their efficiency

Bug Control Recommendation Tool

What type of pest are you dealing with?

How severe is the infestation?

Do you require child/pet/garden safe treatments (organic)?

Are you willing to monitor and maintain the treatment yourself?


Males and Reproduction

The life cycle of tiphiid wasps involves a fascinating process of reproduction. Male and female wasps engage in mating activities to produce offspring. Once the eggs are laid in the host insect, the larvae consume their prey to grow and develop. Adult males are called flower wasps, as they are often found on flowers sipping nectar and assisting with pollination.

In summary, tiphiid wasps have an intriguing life cycle and exhibit fascinating behaviors. Their roles as predator, parasitoid, and pollinator make them invaluable members of the insect world, providing benefits to ecosystems and agriculture.

The Tiphiid Wasp Diversity

Tiphiid wasps are a fascinating group of insects with a remarkable diversity. Found mostly in tropical regions, they belong to the family Tiphiidae. These wasps are known to sip nectar from wildflowers like goldenrods, and also participate in plant pollination1. Some notable subfamilies of Tiphiid wasp include:

  • Brachycistidinae
  • Methochinae
  • Myzininae
  • Thynninae
  • Diamminae
  • Anthoboscinae

Scientific studies, such as molecular phylogenetics, have been conducted to better understand the intricate relationships within this diverse family. In some cases, researchers have found evidence of paraphyly, meaning that some subfamilies may not actually be as closely related as initially thought2.

Comparing the wasps within the Tiphiidae family reveals some interesting differences. For example, their physical appearance varies, as well as their ecological preferences. Some experts like Krombein and Pate have made significant contributions to the study of this diverse group of insects3.

Tiphiid wasps are also closely related to other families within the superfamily Chrysidoidea, as well as the Scarabaeoidea, which includes various beetles. These relationships highlight the importance of institutions that support research to uncover more about these fascinating insects4.

In conclusion, the diversity observed in the Tiphiid wasp family is truly astounding, and continued research will shed even more light on their remarkable characteristics.

Footnotes

  1. https://uwm.edu/field-station/tiphiid-wasp/
  2. https://entomology.umn.edu/wasp-mantidfly
  3. https://extension.psu.edu/one-herbicide-mix-to-do-it-all-almost
  4. https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/WASPS/rustyspiderwasp.html

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Female Five Banded Tiphid Wasp

 

Subject: Cicada killer? or Yellow Jacket?
Location: Tampa, FL
October 2, 2012 9:34 pm
I just took this picture minutes ago on my back patio. This insect is parked on the edge of the cat food bowl and is happily posing as long as I needed. It’s still there, but I’m thinking that I need to get it outside in the yard for survival. I have looked through a lot of images and I’m leaning toward Cicada Killer, but the markings are a bit different. It’s Oct. 2nd at 10pm in Tampa, Florida.
Signature: Shell K

Tiphid Wasp

Dear Shell,
This appears to us to be a Tiphid Wasp in the genus
Myzinum, most likely a female based on this description posted to BugGuide:  “Females are robust, with short, curled antennae and heavy hind femora (“thighs”). Males are very slender with long, straight antennae and a prominent curved “pseudostinger” at the tip of the abdomen.”  In a previous posting to our website, we posted this description from BugGuide, “A slender, shining black wasp, with yellow crossbands. Males are more slender than the females and have an upturned black hook at the end of the abdomen. There are 5 yellow bands on the abdomen of the female (the second is broken in the middle) and 6 narrow, more regular ones in the male. Both head and thorax are marked with yellow. Legs of the males are strongly yellow, but they are reddish in females. Wings are brown.“   However, we cannot locate that citation at its source any longer.  We are relatively certain the species if the Five Banded Tiphid Wasp, Myzinum quinquecinctum.

Letter 2 – Male Thynnid Wasp

 

Subject:  Some kind of wasp?!
Geographic location of the bug:  Palm Springs, CA
Date: 06/11/2019
Time: 08:04 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi, I’m wondering if this is some kind of Wasp? Perhaps a bee ?‍♀️ I found it inside my house. But haven’t been able to identify what it is. Seems like the butt is skinnier than most wasps & it’s about an inch long. Moves very quick too. Definetly has a stinger. Also I did free it from the bag after I took pics. (The second photo is of its under body)
How you want your letter signed:  Alyssa

Thynnid Wasp

Dear Alyssa,
This appears to be what in the past we have classified as a Tiphiid Wasp in the genus
Myzimun, but there has apparently been some reclassification of the genus.  Now the genus Myzimun is classified in the family Thynnidae according to BugGuide.  This is a male Wasp and male Wasps are not able to sting.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae are parasitoids of white grubs (scarab larvae), especially Phyllophaga and other Scarabaeidae, and to a lesser extent Cicindelinae. Adults take nectar, mostly from Asteraceae and Apiaceae” and “Used in turfgrass pest management.”  Because of your submission, Daniel is going to have to do some reclassification in the archives and move many formerly identified Tiphiid Wasps into a new family category Thynnid Wasps.

Thynnid Wasp

Letter 3 – Tiphiids

 

what is this???
I live in northern MI and this is the first time I have ever seen this insect. It(they) are bunched together on my young pampas grass. Do they sting, should I take measures to exterminate them? Please help me… Thank you very much.
Louise McCloskey

Hi Louise,
After requesting assistance from Eric Eaton, we scoured BugGuide pages and located the Five Banded Tiphiid, Myzinum quinquecinctum, but there isn’t much explanation of this behavior. Hopefully Eric Eaton will provide something. The life cycle information provided on BugGuide states: “Life Cycle Larvae are parasitoids of white grubs (scarab larvae), especially May Beetles, Phyllophaga . Female lays one egg per grub in soil. Larvae hatches, penetrates host, first feeding on non-essential tissues, later feeding on essential organs and killng host. Pupae overwinter in soil and adults emerge in early summer, with one generation per year.” This indicates these are not social wasps, so the aggregation behavior is intriguing.

Update: (07/10/2007) Eric Explains
Daniel:
The wasps in the image are all males. Males of many kinds of wasps form “sleeping” aggregations like that depicted in the image. It may also be that these male wasps form “leks,” meaning they occupy a small area (lek) that the females will visit to select a mate. While the genus of these wasps certainly is Myzinum, species determination is difficult even with specimens, and certainly cannot be concluded from a photo alone.
Eric

Update: (07/10/2007) Five-banded Tiphiid from Michigan
I am also from Northern (Lower) Michigan, and I have been seeing congregations of these insects for a couple of years now in the late summer, normally on leafy indigenous grasses (the pampas grass from the inquery fit well.) It’s nice to see someone else curious about them, and I’m happy that I can add them to my numerous “natural” pest removal measures living in my neighborhood (I’ve grown out an acre of “prairie” in my back yard to foster habitat for everything from toads to dragonflies, monarchs to tiphiids… apparently.) Anyway, they never seem to be doing anything in these gatherings (not mating nor feeding on the grasses,) and I never bothered them… so they never bothered me. I just wanted to lend credence to their congregal nature, even if they are just “hangin’ out” with some grass. (Far more drug-referenced than I was shooting for…) Thanks for the always enlightening read,
Weston Tulloch

Letter 4 – Bachelor Party of Wasps in Florida

 

Subject:  Wasp? Greenish blackish? Group.
Geographic location of the bug:  Panhandle, Florida
Date: 07/24/2018
Time: 09:13 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Apologies for keeping it brief. These wasps have made on home on an old cloths hanger dangling from the frame of my back yard porch. They appear harmless. Non- aggressive. But also without a home?  For the two to threee weeks then have taken up residence, as seen from the photo.
What are they?
How you want your letter signed:  Fan of the Bug

Bachelor Party

Dear Fan of the Bug,
You have nothing to fear from these male wasps as they cannot sting.  They are roosting together at night, an activity performed by some species of Wasps and Solitary Bees that is commonly called a bachelor party because there are only males that participate.  We will attempt a more specific identification for you, but we believe they may be from the family Tiphiidae.

Male Wasps have a Bachelor Party

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Tiphiid Wasps

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Many members of this genus have 5 bands on the abdomen. M. quinquecinctum is the only species that has orange antennae and is known for its uniformly colored wings. The black antennae and strongly bicolored wings are more indicative of M. maculatum.

    Reply

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