Spider Wasp

Facts, Identification & Control

Scientific Name

Family Pompilidae

Appearance

Spider wasps are of various colors depending upon the species observed, but many are black or blue colored with dark, large black, blue or orange-yellow colored wings. The adult wasps in the family Pompilidae range in size from about ½-2 inches long. If you see a wasp with this coloration running on the ground, flickering its wing and having a spider in its grasp, more than likely it is a spider wasp. Another prominent characteristic is a curled antenna at the front of the wasp’s head.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Spider wasps have earned their common name as the result of being such efficient hunters and killers of spiders, which they use to feed to their offspring. The spider wasp has only one generation per year. Its annual life cycle begins in the spring when the overwintering pupal stage of the wasp changes into an adult. Since most species of spider wasps are ground burrowing wasps, the pupa is protected from the effects of the cold weather while spending the winter in the burrow. Soon after the adult female wasp emerges from the burrow, she begins to hunt for spiders. Upon finding suitable prey, the wasp stings the spider, a sting that paralyzes but does not cause the spider to die. She then drags the spider back to her burrow, lays an egg on the spider and that spider becomes food for the wasp’s larval stage. Adult spider wasps do not eat spiders, but get their nourishment from plant nectar

More Information

Spider wasps are distributed throughout most of the U.S. Like other solitary wasps, they are not aggressive and normally prefer to fly or run away rather than sting. This meek behavior is common for most solitary wasps that live alone and are self-reliant, making their own nest and caring for their own young. Since it is unlikely that more than one spider wasp is encountered by the homeowner, doing nothing except letting the wasp escape is recommended. If needing to exercise control, use the garden hose to spray water and drive the wasp away, or swat the wasp with a rolled up newspaper or fly swatter. Pesticides are not recommended, especially where insecticide deposits could be picked up by honeybees and carried back to their hive. If you need expert assistance, call your pest management professional who will advise and provide you with recommendations.