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Thread-waisted Wasp: Sphex lucae (Sphex lucae)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Thread-waisted Wasp: Sphex lucae

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Image Credit: Ian G.
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This Thread-Waisted Wasp builds nests in the ground, a place many people never think to look when flying adults swing by.

Updated: 08/23/2019; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
A tiny waist connects the black head and thorax of the female Sphex lucae to its red-orange abdomen. The narrow waist is as wide as a thread or hair, which boggles the mind, but the physiology works. Males are completely black. Wings have an orange tint when spread open. Females use their legs, spiked with hairs, to pulls loose soil or sand up as they dig burrows into the ground. This burrow becomes a nest for fertilized eggs where cells are filled with immobilized caterpillars and katydids, awaiting larval consumption.

This species of wasp may be alone or in the company of others like it. It can be social despite being considered a solitary type of wasp. If a nest is disturbed when a female is near, or the wasp is threatened, it can sting. Generally, though, nests are built away from areas with high foot-traffic so aggressive encounters do not seem common.

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Spiny / Spiky insect icon
Insect stinger icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Sphecidae
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          Genus: Sphex
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            Species: lucae
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Sphex lucae
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 20mm to 28mm (0.78" to 1.10")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, orange, red
Descriptors: red-orange butt, abdomen, wasp, orange wings, spiky legs, flying, stinging

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 20mm (0.8in) and 28mm (1.1in)
Lo: 20mm
Md: 24mm
Hi: 28mm
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 Thread-waisted Wasp: Sphex lucae 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 Thread-waisted Wasp: Sphex lucae. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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