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American Pelecinid Wasp (Pelecinus polyturator)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the American Pelecinid Wasp

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The Pelecinid Wasp make look like a small alien and evoke anxiety on sight, but it is actually a useful parasite that naturally controls beetle numbers.

Updated: 01/02/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The long, glossy abdomen ('tail') of the Pelecinid Wasp female invokes trepidation among humans, but it does not sting. It is actually used to deposit eggs onto the backs of grubs living underground. She pokes it deep into the soil until she hits one. She then lays one egg on it and moves on to find another. When the wasp egg hatches, the larva will use its mouth to burrow into the helpless grub and eat it from the inside out.

Females have bulging legs in addition to the extremely long and thin abdomen. They do not have stingers, but may try to poke at a threat to push or scare it away. The male has a shorter abdomen with a swollen tip. They are rarely seen, but share traits like the glossy body and bulging legs (albeit smaller) with females.

Adults feed on nectar from garden plants, woods and other areas. They are low fliers, staying close to the ground and sometimes are spotted perched on low growing shrubs or plants. Females are often spotted surveying land for hosts. This species is capable of producing offspring from unfertilized eggs, a remarkable feat for a living creature. ©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Harmful insect icon
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Pelecinidae
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          Genus: Pelecinus
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            Species: polyturator

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Pelecinus polyturator
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 15mm to 62mm (0.59" to 2.44")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; yellow
Descriptors: long; skinny; stinger; thighs; stinging; flying; harmful

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 15mm (0.6in) and 62mm (2.4in)
Lo: 15mm
Md: 38.5mm
Hi: 62mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the American Pelecinid Wasp may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the American Pelecinid Wasp. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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