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Sceliphron spirifex (Linnaeus) (Mud Dauber)

(Life: Kingdom: Metazoa (animals); Phylum: Arthropoda; Class: Hexapoda; Order: Hymenoptera; Superfamily: Apoidea; Family: Sphecidae; Subfamily: Sceliphrinae; Genus: Sceliphron)

Sphex spirifex Linnaeus, 1758.  Lectotype: southern Europe: no specific locality (Linnean Society, London), designated by Day, 1979.


Photographs Simon van Noort (Iziko Museums of South Africa).

Female with prey (Scarborough, Western Cape, South Africa). Photographs Callan Cohen.

Diagnosis Superficially similar to Chalybion spinolae, but distinguishable by the matt black body (Chalybion spinolae has a metallic blue lustre to the body) and colour of the femur and tibia of the front and mid legs, which are yellow and black (reddish brown in Chalybion spinolae). Females are also easily separated by the black antennae (Chalybion spinolae females have reddish-orange antennae, but the males have black antennae). The petiole is relatively longer. The form of the propodeum is distinctive: there is an anterior central raised area bounded laterally and posteriorly by a shallow excavation. The nest construction for these two species is also very different (see biology below).

Sceliphron spirifex can only be separated reliably from S. quartinae by the shape of the hind coxae. The scapes (first visible segment of the antennae) are black in S. quartinae and dirty yellow in S. spirifex.

Distribution Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Tanzania, Toscana, Turkey, Uganda.


These wasps are Mud daubers building their mud nests in a variety of sheltered situations including inside and around houses. Females construct a nest comprising several adjacent tubes made from mud. They prey on a variety of spiders and mass provision the single cells with an egg laid on the first spider. The cells may be covered with an outer layer of mud providing extra protection to the developing larvae (Bohart & Menke, 1976). Prey are predominantly Orb web spiders, Araneidae (Araneaus, Argiope, Caerostris, Cyclosa, Isoxya, Nephila), but Theridiidae and Zodariidae are also captured (Gess & Gess, 2014)


Bohart, R.M. & Menke, A. S. 1976. Sphecid Wasps of the World: a Generic Revision. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.

Brothers D.J. 1999. Phylogeny and evolution of wasps, ants and bees (Hymenoptera, Chrysidoidea, Vespoidea and Apoidea) Zoologica Scripta 28: 233250.

Finnamore, A.T. & Michener, C.D. 1993. Superfamily Apoidea (pp. 279-357). In GOULET, H. & HUBER, J. (eds). Hymenoptera of the World: an identification guide to families. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Canada, 668 pp.

Gess SK, Gess FW 2014. Wasps and bees in southern Africa. SANBI Biodiversity Series 24. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. 320 pp.


CATALOG OF WORLD SPHECIDAE sensu lato (= Apoidea excluding bees) compiled by Wojciech J. Pulawski (California Academy of Sciences).


Photographs Simon van Noort (Iziko Museums of South Africa), or Callan Cohen.

Web author Simon van Noort (Iziko South African Museum)


Citation: van Noort, S. 2024. WaspWeb: Hymenoptera of the Afrotropical region. URL: www.waspweb.org (accessed on <day/month/year>).

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