Ammophila (wasp)

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Ammophila pubescens - Kulna.jpg
Ammophila pubescens
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Sphecidae
Subfamily: Ammophilinae
Genus: Ammophila
W. Kirby, 1798
Type species
Ammophila sabulosa
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Many (>200 species + subspecies[1])

Ammophila is the type genus of the subfamily Ammophilinae of the hunting wasp family Sphecidae. Ammophila is a large and cosmopolitan genus, with over 200 species, mostly occurring in the warmer regions of all continents apart from Antarctica.

Vernacular names[edit]

They sometimes are referred to as "thread-waisted wasps", but the name is not definitive, because many other members of the Sphecidae are thread-waisted, too, and referred to as such. Sometimes Ammophiline wasps are referred to as "sand wasps"; this may be better because it is consistent with the name Ammophila, which derives from the Greek for "sand lover", presumably because many species dig their nests in sand. However, as is frequent in dealing with common names, no definitive common name for the Ammophilinae exists; entomologists usually confine themselves to the technical names for convenience and clarity.

Morphology and habits[edit]

As is frequent in large genera, considerable variation occurs in their habits and appearance, but predominantly they are medium-sized wasps of strikingly slender build, with antennae about as long as the head plus thorax.

The jaws are not large, but are strong and apart from feeding and digging, often are used for unexpected functions such as holding a pebble with which the wasp hammers down soil to seal a nest,[2] or to grip the stem of a plant at night, holding its body at right-angles to the stem, its legs folded and all the weight taken up by the mandibles. This habit is not unique to the Ammophilinae — some bees, such as Amegilla, also overnight in that way, and Fabre documented some others.[3]

Ammophila with a captured caterpillar


Nesting is generally by digging an unbranched tunnel in sandy soil, but provisioning can be progressive, the mother bringing prey as the larva requires it, or mass provisioning, where each nest is provided with a single large prey item,[4] or as many small prey items as should be required.[2] Prey selection depends on the species available but mostly moth and sawfly caterpillars are chosen.[citation needed]


Ammophila heydeni

The genus Ammophila was created by the English parson-naturalist William Kirby in 1798.[5] It contains 243 extant species:[6]


  1. ^ "Ammophila". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  2. ^ a b Peckham, George W, Peckham, Elizabeth G.; Wasps, Social and Solitary, Pub. Constable 1905
  3. ^ Fabre, Jean-Henri; The wonders of instinct; Pub: Century, New York 1918
  4. ^ Barbara J. Hager and Frank E. Kurczewski; Nesting Behavior of Ammophila harti (Fernald) (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae); American Midland Naturalist Vol. 116, No. 1 (Jul., 1986); Pub: University of Notre Dame
  5. ^ Pulawski, Wojciech J. (2021) [2014]. "Family Group Names and Classification: and taxa excluded from Sphecidae sensu lato" (PDF). California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  6. ^ Pulawski, Wojciech (2021). "Ammophila" (PDF). California Academy of Sciences. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-04-02.

External links[edit]

Media related to Ammophila at Wikimedia Commons