Sand or Thread-waisted Wasps
Predatory wasps are a threat to caterpillars
You may have read other hubs of mine about my efforts and achievements in rearing Monarch Butterlies from caterpillar to adult insects but for the past year I haven't had any success despite a supply of food plants growing here. I think I have found out why though and why there are no female butterflies coming back to lay more eggs.
A predatory insect that I didn't used to see here has become a frequent sight and that insect is a Sand Wasp or Thread-waisted Wasp and it feeds its larvae on caterpillars.
Thread-waisted wasp photos
A killing machine
One of the species we have here on Tenerife is Ammophila tydei (Podolonia tydei) of the family known as the Sphecidae. Its scientific name is in reference to Mt Teide, the mountain central to the island of Tenerife, and the highest mountain in Spain.
It is a large and distinctive insect and an effective hunting and killing machine. The mother wasp has to find enough caterpillars to feed her own young ones with. She flies about looking almost like a mini-drone aircraft as she hovers and flies in straight lines towards targets in her sights.
The mother wasps methodically search bushes and plants if they suspect they may have caterpillars on them. If they find any moth or butterfly larvae they sting them and grab their prey which they carry away to place in a burrow they have previously dug in sandy soil. At least this is what most wasps of this genus do, although the ones I have been watching build nests of mud daubing on walls. A female I watched spent every day for nearly a month doing this on the wall by my balcony.
The wasp Sceliphron spiriflex lives on the island and this species makes a nest of mud. This wasp hunts spiders to feed its young with.
The wasp puts its paralysed caterpillar or spider victims in its nest and then lays an egg. After it has done this it seals it off.
Because species in this family tend to make their burrows in sand and sandy soils they have earned the name Sand Wasp. Their alternative moniker, Thread-waisted Wasp, describes their physical appearance accurately. The body of the insect is carried at the end of a long thread-like waist that continues from the head and thorax area.
There are other closely related species, some of which build nests of mud, such as the aptly named Mud Dauber Wasp.
They are quite large insects over 2cm in length but they will not attack humans despite their somewhat scary appearance. The adult wasps feed on nectar from flowers.
Copyright © 2010 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
Thread-waisted wasp links
- Ammophila thread-waisted wasp pictures and information
Picture and information about the Ammophila thread-waisted wasp, a large, black and red-orange wasp whose larvae feed on caterpillars, from Eastern Washington.
- Sphecidae - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Sphecid Wasps - Ammophila sp.
Explore unusual closeup photos of these large thread-waisted wasps sleeping and mating and eating, all those things wasps do so well.