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NC State Extension

Spider Wasp

  • Common Name: Spider Wasp
  • General Category: Parasitoid
  • Taxonomic Classification: Hymenoptera: Pompilidae
  • Scientific Name: Many species

Description

These are usually large dark-colored wasps, often with dark, oily-looking wings. They are often seen feeding on flower nectar, as well as searching on the ground outdoors, as well as structures such as barns and sheds for spiders. Once they locate a spider, they will paralyze it then either transport it to a previously dug underground nest to lay an egg on it, or lay an egg inside the spiders burrow. You can sometimes observe these wasps dragging paralyzed spiders long distances on the ground. These wasps are solitary, that is a single female will construct and provision a nest.

Spider wasp adult Spider wasp adult with spider

Identification

Review the images for tips on how to identify these predators.

Adults

Long, often spiny hind legs. Usually very dark body and wings. The wings are not folded up accordion-style at rest as they are in paper wasps. They also often nervously flick their wings, and are very active in searching for spiders and nectar. The middle plate on the side of thorax is divided in two.

Larvae

Because the grub-like larvae develop by feeding on paralyzed spiders in underground nests, they cannot be seen unless a nest is purposely dug up.

Value in Pest Management

Spider wasps contribute to natural control of spider populations. However, because they parasitize spiders, that themselves are considered beneficial arthropods, spider wasps may affect pest management. They are not sold commercially.

Origin and Distribution

Native, throughout North America.

Discover Life – Pompilidae

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