Sporting the colours yellow and black of a normal wasp, the Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex) looks strangely disconnected in flight. The overall length is from 19 to 25mm with part of that made up of a yellow “thread” or pedicel. The body is mainly black with yellow bands on the long legs which hang down in flight. They can be found in Southern Europe and Africa.
Sceliphron spirifex are solitary wasps and are not aggressive, they do not sting unless mishandled. The sexes look very similar with the female being larger and with a visible sting.
The female searches out an ideal shelter to create a mud daub nest, by flying repeatedly around an area and finally walking around to be thoroughly sure in her choice.
Shade from the sun and shelter from the rain are priority. Fine particles of mud are then collected, balled up and flown back to the chosen site. They will search out a damp patch from an irrigation system, pond or puddle, returning frequently during the day to collect more.
Several cells are connected along side each other, sharing the mud walls, but they are individual, sealed tube. Each cell will contain one egg and be provided with food for the larvae when it hatches.
The food is in the form of small spiders with between 6 and 14 per cell. These are mostly small crab or jumping spiders that the wasp hunts and brings alive but paralised to the mud cell.
There are quite a few thread wasted or potter wasps in Spain. The Great Potter Wasp is quite beautiful but has a gruesome lifecycle similar to the thread wasted wasp detailed above.
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