thread-waisted wasp

(Ammophila pictipennis)

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

not listed

 
  NatureServe

not listed

 
  Minnesota

not listed

 
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

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.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

¾ to 1 (20 to 25 mm)

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Fields

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

June to October

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

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
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

24, 29, 30, 82.

 
  9/4/2021      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Fairly common

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies)  
 

Suborder

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

Infraorder

Aculeata (ants, bees and stinging wasps)  
 

Superfamily

Apoidea (bees and apoid wasps)  
 

Family

Sphecidae (thread-waisted wasps)  
 

Subfamily

Ammophilinae  
 

Tribe

Ammophilini  
 

Genus

Ammophila (thread-waisted sand wasps)  
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Gaster

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

 

Mesosoma

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.

 

Ocellus

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

 

Pronotum

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

 

Tegula

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.

 

Tibia

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

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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Mike Poeppe

 
 

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

 
    thread-waisted wasp (Ammophila pictipennis)      
           
 
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Other Videos
 
  THREAD-WAISTED WASP carrying caterpillar. Ammophila pictipennis
Rob Curtis
 
   
 
About

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
 
   
 
About

Sep 22, 2012

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

 
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
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  Mike Poeppe
8/7/2021

Location: west of Houston, MN

... after the rain today

thread-waisted wasp (Ammophila pictipennis)

 
           
 
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Created: 9/4/2021

Last Updated:

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