Beewolf wasp

Last updated: March 28, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© iStock.com/Wirestock

Beewolf wasps hunt bees to feed to their young!


Advertisement


Beewolf wasp Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Insecta
Order
Hymenoptera
Family
Crabronidae
Genus
Philanthus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Beewolf wasp Conservation Status


Beewolf wasp Facts

Main Prey
Bees
Name Of Young
Larvae
Group Behavior
  • Solitary except during mating season
Fun Fact
Beewolf wasps hunt bees to feed to their young!
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Venomous stinger
Other Name(s)
Beewolf, bee-hunter, bee-killer wasp
Habitat
Soil
Predators
Birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Favorite Food
Nectar, pollen
Common Name
Beewolf
Special Features
Venomous stinger
Number Of Species
136
Location
North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia
Slogan
They hunt bees
Group
Swarm
Nesting Location
Soil/ground

Beewolf wasp Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Yellow
  • Black
  • Dark Brown
  • Black-Brown
Skin Type
Exoskeleton
Venomous
Yes
Aggression
High

View all of the Beewolf wasp images!



Share on:

Beewolf wasps are insects belonging to the genus Philanthus. These efficient predators hunt and paralyze various species of bees to feed their newly-hatched larvae. However, as adults, they feed on nectar and pollen. These solitary wasps are not generally dangerous to nonallergic humans, though they may sting if threatened. The IUCN does not currently include beewolves on their Red List.

Beewolf Wasp Species, Types, and Scientific Name

Beewolf wasps are any of 136 species belonging to the genus Philanthus. They are also known as beewolves, bee-hunters, and bee-killer wasps. Beewolves are part of the class Insecta and the order Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies). They further belong to the family Crabronidae (square-headed wasps, sand wasps, and allies) and the tribe Philanthini.

The genus Philanthus includes the following species:

  • European beewolf (Philanthus triangulum)
  • Bumblebeewolf (Philanthus bicinctus)
  • Bohart’s beewolf (Philanthus boharti)
  • Crowned philanthus (Philanthus coronatus)
  • Levin’s beewolf (Philanthus levini)
  • Loefling’s beewolf (Philanthus loeflingi)
  • Michelbacher’s beewolf (Philanthus michelbacheri)
  • Parker’s beewolf (Philanthus parkeri)
  • Sanborn’s beewolf (Philanthus sanborni)
  • Schuster’s beewolf (Philanthus schusteri)

Appearance: How to Identify the Beewolf Wasp

Beewolf wasps are large wasps with six jointed legs, antennae, wings, and stingers. Depending on the species, they grow between 0.47 and 0.7 inches in length. Though there may be slight variations in colors and patterns according to species, the European beewolf is the most iconic with its yellow face and black-striped yellow abdomen. Its thorax is dark, as is the back of its head, which carries a reddish-brown hue. Its antennae are notable for being unusually thick.

European beewolf, Philanthus triangulum

The European beewolf is the most iconic with its yellow face and black-striped yellow abdomen.

©iStock.com/Wirestock

Habitat: Where to Find the Beewolf Wasp

Beewolf wasps are primarily ground wasps, meaning they build their nests in the ground. Female European beewolves dig tunnels as long as 3.3 feet with as many as 34 side burrows leading to brood chambers. These diurnal insects are solitary except when mating or raising young.

Beewolves inhabit countries in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. They also occur in every U.S. state. Below is a table of countries with reported sightings of beewolf species:

North AmericaSouth AmericaEuropeAfricaAsia
CanadaBrazilAlbaniaAlgeriaChina
Costa Rica ArmeniaAngolaIndia
El Salvador AustriaBotswanaIraq
Guatemala BelarusCameroonJordan
Mexico BelgiumCôte d’IvoireLebanon
United States Bosnia and HerzegovinaEgyptKazakhstan
  BulgariaEthiopiaKuwait
  CroatiaGabonKyrgyzstan
  CyprusKenyaMyanmar
  CzechiaMadagascarOman
  DenmarkMalawiPakistan
  EstoniaMoroccoSaudi Arabia
  FinlandMozambiqueSouth Korea
  FranceNamibiaTurkey
  GeorgiaNigerUnited Arab Emirates
  GermanySenegal 
  GreeceSouth Africa 
  HungaryTanzania 
  IrelandTunisia 
  ItalyUganda 
  LatviaZambia 
  LithuaniaZimbabwe 
  Moldova  
  Montenegro  
  Netherlands  
  Norway  
  Poland  
  Portugal  
  Romania  
  Russia  
  Serbia  
  Slovakia  
  Slovenia  
  Spain  
  Sweden  
  Switzerland  
  Ukraine  
  United Kingdom  
European beewolf wasp (Philanthus triangulum)

Female European beewolves dig tunnels as long as 3.3 feet with as many as 34 side burrows leading to brood chambers.

©iStock.com/ShaftInAction

Evolution and History

The order Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies) contains over 153,000 described extant species and as many as one million undescribed species. It first began to diversify between the Carboniferous and Triassic Periods some 329 to 239 million years ago. The earliest known fossils from this order came from the Triassic approximately 224 million years ago.

Bees likely originated within the family Crabronidae, which includes beewolves. The tribe most closely related to bees is Psenini. Bees diversified greatly within the Cretaceous Period (145.5 to 65.5 million years ago) with the rise of angiosperms (flowering plants), splitting off from extant wasps. Thus many pollinators, including beewolves, had a predatory origin.

Diet: What Do Beewolf Wasps Eat?

Beewolf wasps are highly predatory insects. Although the adults are primarily herbivorous, beewolf larvae are carnivorous.

What Do Beewolf Wasps Eat?

Adult beewolf wasps feed on nectar and pollen from flowers. However, beewolf larvae feed on the bodies of bees, especially sweat bees and honey bees. Adult female beewolves envenom their prey, paralyzing and dragging them back to their nests. Upon depositing up to six bees in each brood chamber, the wasps lay a single egg in each. After hatching, the larvae feed on the innards of the paralyzed bees.

The European beewolf wasp (Philanthus triangulum) prey on bees

The name “beewolf” derives from the fact that these wasps prey on bees.

©iStock.com/ShaftInAction

What Eats Beewolf Wasps?

These wasps have a number of natural predators. Potential bird predators include sparrows, wrens, orioles, chickadees, warblers, and bluebirds. Predatory insects include spiders, dragonflies, and praying mantises. Some reptiles and amphibians like snakes, lizards, and frogs also prey on wasps. They may even fall victim to mammals like black bears and honey badgers. Beewolf larvae are especially vulnerable to burrowing insects like ants and beetles.

Prevention: How to Get Rid of Beewolf Wasps

Beewolves are not generally harmful to humans or property. In fact, they are valuable pollinators who contribute positively to their ecosystems. Despite the fact that the European beewolf preys on honeybees, their predation on its own is not usually enough to destroy valuable honeybee populations.

However, homeowners concerned about beewolf nests on their property may wish to spray the area with pesticides to kill the wasps. Spraying with white vinegar is a less invasive way of discouraging ground wasps like beewolves. Because they dislike the smell of vinegar, they will likely leave the area and not return to their nests.

View all 284 animals that start with B

Share on:
About the Author

Kathryn Dueck is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, dogs, and geography. Kathryn holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical and Theological Studies, which she earned in 2023. In addition to volunteering at an animal shelter, Kathryn has worked for several months as a trainee dog groomer. A resident of Manitoba, Canada, Kathryn loves playing with her dog, writing fiction, and hiking.

Beewolf wasp FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are beewolf wasps dangerous?

Like any other wasp, beewolves may sting if threatened. However, their venom is not usually dangerous to nonallergic humans. Beewolves primarily use their venom to attack bees.

How many legs do beewolf wasps have?

As insects, beewolf wasps have six jointed legs (three pairs).

What do beewolf wasps eat?

Adult beewolves feed on nectar and pollen. However, beewolf larvae feed on the innards of paralyzed bees.

How do you identify beewolf wasps?

Beewolves are fairly large wasps with stingers. The European beewolf in particular has a yellow face and black-striped yellow abdomen. Its thorax and the back of its head are dark.

Are beewolf wasps endangered?

Beewolf wasps are not currently endangered.

Why are they called "beewolf" wasps?

The name “beewolf” derives from the fact that these wasps prey on bees. Two of the most common types of bees are honeybees and sweat bees.

Are beewolf wasps solitary?

Unlike many other types of wasps, beewolves are solitary.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources

  1. The Wildlife Trusts / Accessed March 27, 2023
  2. GBIF / Accessed March 27, 2023
  3. Current Biology / Accessed March 27, 2023
  4. Current Biology / Accessed March 27, 2023
  5. Britannica / Accessed March 27, 2023
  6. Integrated Taxonomic Information System / Accessed March 27, 2023
  7. Bug Guide / Accessed March 27, 2023
  8. Encyclopedia of Life / Accessed March 27, 2023

Newly Added Animals

A Great White Shark
Great White Shark

Can grow to more than 8 meters long!

A Cobalt Blue Tarantula
Cobalt Blue Tarantula

Cobalt blue tarantulas spend most of their time in self-dug burrows and only emerge when it's time to eat

Most Recently Updated Animals

A Great White Shark
Great White Shark

Can grow to more than 8 meters long!

A Cobalt Blue Tarantula
Cobalt Blue Tarantula

Cobalt blue tarantulas spend most of their time in self-dug burrows and only emerge when it's time to eat