thread-waisted wasp

(Ammophila pictipennis)

Conservation Status
thread-waisted wasp (Ammophila pictipennis)
Photo by Mike Poeppe
  IUCN Red List

not listed


not listed


not listed


Ammophila pictipennis is a medium-sized, solitary, ground-nesting, thread-waisted wasp. It occurs in the United States east of the Great Plains, in southern Ontario Canada, and in eastern Mexico. Adults are found from June to October in fields. They feed on flower nectar. Larvae feed on larvae of owlet moths, especially cutworms, including armyworm, lesser black-letter dart, yellow-striped armyworm, and corn earworm.

Adults are ¾ to 1 (20 to 25 mm) in length. The base of the abdomen is contracted into a thin stalk, making the body appear “thread-waisted”. This is the feature that gives the family Sphecidae its common name.

The head is dull black. There are two large compound eyes, one on each side of the head; and three small simple eyes (ocelli) in a triangular pattern at the top of the head between the compound eyes. The antennae are thread-like, black, and about as long as the head and thorax combined. They are not elbowed.

The thorax (mesosoma) is entirely dull black, with no silver markings. It has three segments, but the first segment of the abdomen is fused to the thorax, giving the thorax the appearance of having four segments. The upper plate on the first segment (pronotum) is short and collar-like. There is a short, rounded lobe on each side of the pronotum that does not reach the plate at the base of the wings (tegula).

The abdomen consists of a large first segment (propodeum) that is fused to the thorax; a relatively long, narrow, stalk-like second segment (petiole); and the bulbous remainder (gaster). The gaster is bent downward at the end of the petiole. The rear part of the petiole and the first two segments of the gaster are orange. The remainder of the gaster is dull black.

The wings are orange on the basal half, grading to black on the rear half. As the wasp ages, the black area gradually fades to orange. The forewing has three submarginal cells. There are two lobes at the base of the hindwing. The inner lobe (vannal lobe) is large.

The legs are long, slender, and black. The fourth segment (tibia) on the middle leg has two spurs at the tip.




¾ to 1 (20 to 25 mm)


Similar Species






June to October




Adults will sometimes grip the stalk of a plant at night and hold its body out at right angles to the stem.

The wings are held over the body when at rest.


Life Cycle


The female digs a nest with a single cell in sand, provisions it with a single paralyzed caterpillar, and lays a single egg.


Larva Food


Larvae of owlet moths (Family Noctuidae), especially cutworms, including armyworm, lesser black-letter dart, yellow-striped armyworm, and corn earworm.


Adult Food


Flower nectar


Distribution Map



24, 29, 30, 82.




Fairly common



Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies)  


Apocrita (narrow-waisted wasps, ants, and bees)  


Aculeata (ants, bees and stinging wasps)  


Apoidea (bees and apoid wasps)  


Sphecidae (thread-waisted wasps)  






Ammophila (thread-waisted sand wasps)  



Ammophila anomala

Ammophila extremitata pictipennis

Sphex extremitata pictipennis

Sphex nigropilosus

Sphex pictipennis


Common Names


This species has no common name. The common name of the family Sphecidae is thread-waisted wasps, and is applied here for convenience.










The bulbous part of the abdomen of ants, bees, and wasps. In ants it usually begins at segment three.



In Hymenoptera: the front part of the body, consisting of all three segments of the thorax and the first segment of the abdomen, to which the wings are attached.



Simple eye; an eye with a single lens. Plural: ocelli.



The saddle-shaped, exoskeletal plate on the upper side of the first segment of the thorax of an insect.



A small, hardened, plate, scale, or flap-like structure that overlaps the base of the forewing of insects in the orders Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Homoptera. Plural: tegulae.



The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot). The fifth segment of a spider leg or palp.






Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.

Mike Poeppe


... after the rain today west of Houston, MN

    thread-waisted wasp (Ammophila pictipennis)      








Visitor Videos

Share your video of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.


Other Videos
  THREAD-WAISTED WASP carrying caterpillar. Ammophila pictipennis
Rob Curtis

Oct 16, 2016

Ammophila pictipennis = THREAD-WAISTED WASP female carrying caterpillar. Hennepin Hopper, IL 10/8/2017.

  Thread-waisted Wasp (Ammophila pictipennis) with its caterpillar prey
Timothy Ng

Sep 22, 2012

Kissena Corridor Park, Queens, New York City, New York, USA.
9/22/2012 (Sat) morning.




Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Be sure to include a location.
  Mike Poeppe

Location: west of Houston, MN

... after the rain today

thread-waisted wasp (Ammophila pictipennis)







Created: 9/4/2021

Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © 2021 All rights reserved.