Spider Wasps (Family Pompilidae)

Spider wasps are long-legged, solitary wasps that use a single spider as a food source for each larva. The spider needs to be as large as the wasp, or even bigger, because the wasp larva needs to be able to complete its development on the one host. As a result, spider wasps have some of the most powerful stings because tacking a spider bigger than yourself can be dangerous. Fortunately, spider wasps are not aggressive and rarely sting humans.

There are many Australian species of spider wasps that range in size from 3.5 – 35 mm in length. Females of many species search for spiders on the ground or on tree trunks, walking rapidly or moving with short hops. They often flick their antennae and wings. They paralyze, rather than kill, the spider with the sting and drag it to a suitable nest site. Some species chop off the legs of the spider to make it easier to carry or fit into the nest.

Some spider wasps make a nest before catching the spider, others after they have captured one. The nest is commonly a burrow in the ground. Some species make nest cells from mud coated with a shiny resin. A single egg is laid on the abdomen of the spider, and the burrow or cell is sealed.

A spider wasp larva feeds on a spider with a cell constructed with mud. This species of spider wasps amputates the legs of the spider before inserting it into the cell. A spider wasp larva feeding on a spider with a cell constructed within mud. This species of spider wasp amputates the legs of the spider before inserting it into the cell. A spider wasp, Batozonellus sp., dragging a paralysed golden orb spider back to its nest. A spider wasp, Batozonellus sp., dragging a paralysed golden orb
spider back to its nest.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.