Thread-waisted Sand Wasp (4Sept2022)

In “Common Thread-waisted Wasp (Ammophila procera),” they say on InsectIdentification:

“The incredibly narrow ‘waist’ on this wasp led to its name. The glossy black wasp has a bulging abdomen with a red or orange band near the hair-thin waist. Long, skinny legs are black and allow the wasp to hold onto vegetation while it watches for potential prey. Large, glossy eyes are black and on the sides of the head. Large mouth parts are on the front of the head.

“The Thread-waisted Wasp is an ambush attacker, immobilizing insect prey with a swift venomous sting. Its powerful jaws aid it in carrying or dragging the numb victim back to an underground lair. A relative of Mud Daubers, the Thread-waisted Wasp builds a similar style of burrow in loose dirt. Inside, tunnels or cells are excavated and the paralyzed prey is tucked inside. One egg is laid on the alive-but-motionless food source, and when the egg hatches, the parasitic wasp larva begins consuming the paralyzed victim, eating nonessential parts first. By the time the meal is completed, the wasp has matured into adult form and flies away from the nest.

“Adults drink flower nectar and feed on small insects they catch in the open. Since many plant-consuming caterpillars are taken as larvae food, this insect could be considered beneficial to gardeners and farmers. They are not known to be aggressive toward humans, though stepping on, or rough handling may result in a defensive sting.”

In “Ammophila Wasps,” the Missouri Department of Conservation writes:

“There are more than 60 species of wasps in genus Ammophila in North America, and it can be difficult to identify them to species. They tend to be medium-sized and generally black, with some amount of orange on the abdomen (the hindmost part of the body).

“Length: usually ¾ to 1 inch; some species are 1½ inches long.

“Ammophila wasps are solitary; they do not live in colonies, and as a result they are not defensive of territories the way paper wasps and yellow jackets are. Females of Ammophila species dig burrows into the ground in which they deposit their eggs and host caterpillars. Therefore, ammophila wasps are usually found in places with bare soil or leaf litter on the ground suitable for nesting. Ammophila wasps are also frequently found in open, sunny grasslands where they drink nectar from flowers.

“These are not aggressive wasps. They will sting only when mishandled. The caterpillars these wasps hunt generally feed on the leaves of plants, so anyone who gardens can learn to appreciate wasps that reduce their populations. Also, the digging of these wasps helps aerate and mix the soil and creates places where rainwater can soak into the earth.

“Many flycatchers and other insectivorous birds are undeterred by the stings of wasps and eagerly snatch them if they can. The underground larvae and their caterpillar pantry are no doubt sought out by moles, shrews, and other insect-eating ground dwellers.”

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