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bee Spider-hunting Wasps

Identify It >   Invertebrates Section >   Spider-hunting Wasps >

Scientific name:  Pompilidae

Size:  Up to 22mm

Distribution:  Found throughout the U.K.

Months seen:  April to September

Life Span:  Approximately 12 months

Habitat:  Heathlands, gardens, fields and woodland edges

Food:  Adults feed on nectar.  The larvae feed on spiders

Special features:  Spider-hunting wasps are long-legged, restless insects with brown tinted wings.  They spend much of their time running over ground with brief bursts of flight.  Their antennae are in constant motion while they explore holes and crevices for spiders.

They catch and kill the the spiders by stinging them.  The venom is strong enough to kill large spiders, which are used as food for the larvae of the wasps.  The spiders they capture are buried, usually with a single egg under stones or in sandy soil.

The larvae which hatch from the eggs (usually within 3 weeks) are cream coloured and grub-like in appearance.  The spider is often still alive, but in a paralysed state when the larva begins feeding on it.  After the meal, the larva pupates ready to emerge as an adult wasp the following spring.

There are some Spider-hunting Wasps, such as Ceropales maculata, which lay their eggs in the nests of other Spider-hunting Wasps (cuckoo style).

Spider-hunting Wasps are not afraid to attack spiders much larger than themselves.  They commonly take Wolf spiders, and in the photos above you can see one has captured a large House Spider.

There are several similar looking species.  Some have a plain black abdomen, some have white patches on the abdomen.  Some have an orange section to the abdomen, and some have an orange abdomen with black stripes.

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