Digger Wasp

Sphex lucae

Photo by Michael Plagens

Foothills of Four Peaks, Maricopa Co., Arizona. October 2008. The male below was found by Marceline in the same area in Oct. 2016.

Photo by Marceline

Hikers in the Sonoran Desert are wise to watch their feet (hard to do when so much along the trail is vying for attention) when stepping so as not to stumble over a loose rock or step on a cholla piece. In consequence, the digging antics of wasps may come to notice because they are prone to choose the bare soil of foot paths to excavate their nest-tunnels. If approached closely the digger wasp will cease digging and fly some distance away so as not to draw attention to her brood chamber within the tunnel.

There are many species of digger wasps found in the Sonoran Desert, and many more worldwide, the female pictured here may be Sphex lucae; a male is shown below. The nest tunnels will be used as brood chambers for the wasp's young larvae. These wasps hunt katydids (a kind of cricket) which are paralyzed with a sting (these wasps are not aggressive to people). The larvae of the wasps eat the insect prey alive and keep them alive by destroying the vital organs last!

Sphecidae -- Thread-waisted Wasp Family

More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page

Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 5 March 2009,
updated 16 Nov. 2016.