FAMILY SPHECIDAE - Mud-Daubers, Sand Wasps 

This page contains pictures and information about Mud-Daubers and Sand Wasps that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.


Species in this family, Sphecidae, are solitary hunting wasps.  Female wasp make nest in soil or build mud cells for her young. She paralyses host arthropod, usually caterpillars or spiders, by her sting.  The sting is a modified ovipositor which injects venom paralyses but not kill the host. She keep the hosts in the nest and lay egg on hosts body. Larva hatches and feeds externally on prey. Larvae are usually legless and grub-like.

Adults are from small to large in size and have long slender waist. Adult wasps feed on nectar or honeydew. All wasps in this family will sting, although they are not aggressive. 

Common Mud-Dauber Wasp
Sceliphron formosum, subfamily SPHECINAE, length 22mm
Some wasps build nests with pellets of mud. Those are individual cells in rows built by Mud-Dauber Wasps. They are very common around Brisbane, in sheltered locations. If a cell is opened, you may find a wasp larva, together with some spiders which are the larva's foods. They are collected by the mother wasp. We opened one cell and recorded the development of a wasp. Details please click here.
Mud-Dauber Wasp Parasitoid
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? Tachytes australis (or Tachysphex australis), subfamily Larrinae, length 20mm
This wasp look similar to the common Common Mud-Dauber Wasp (above) except with yellow pattern on top of its thorax. However, it is wandering on the mud nest but not building the nest. If the wasp was not building the nest then it could be a parasite wasp. It bites off some mud make the smooth cell opening becomes rough, not good for final sealing, i.e., easier to open later for parasite. This is a very interesting story. Please keep reading at this page
Digger Wasp
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Sphex cognatus (Chlorion cognatus), subfamily SPHECINAE, body length 25mm
This wasp is black in colour. Female burrow in ground and prey on crickets and grasshoppers for their young. It builds its nest on the sandy shore of a creek. More pictures and information please visit this page.
Sand Wasp, Digger Wasp
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Bembix sp., subfamily NYSSONINAE, body length 15mm
We saw this Digger wasp flying and hovering on a sandy foot path. Digger Wasps are also known as Sand wasps. Female Digger Wasp constructs burrow under the ground, drags their paralyzed prey in and lay an egg in the burrow. Adult Digger Wasp feed on nectar. More information and pictures can be found in this page.
Small Potter Wasp
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? Clitemnestra sp., nest size 30x40mm                                       Wasp body length 12mm 
We found this small mud nest under a shrub in late summer 2006. There was one small hole on the nest. We brought it home to see what would come out. Few days later we found four small brown wasps came out. However, there were only three more holes on the nest. Opened the empty cells we found some spider body remains. 

1. Insects of Australia, CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Melbourne University Press, 2nd Edition 1991, pp 989.
2. Insects of Australia and New Zealand - R. J. Tillyard, Angus & Robertson, Ltd, Sydney, 1926, p297. 

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Last updated: December 28, 2006.