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Afrotropical Pepsinae (Tarantula hawks)

(Life: Kingdom: Metazoa (animals); Phylum: Arthropoda; Class: Hexapoda; Order: Hymenoptera; Superfamily: Vespoidea; Family: Pompilidae)


Auplopus Spinola, 1841
  Cryptocheilus Panzer, 1806
  Cyemagenia Arnold, 1946
Cyphononyx Dahlbom, 1845
Dichragenia Haupt, 1950
  Dipogon Fox, 1897
  Diplonyx Saussure, 1887
  Guichardia Arnold, 1951

Hemipepsis Dahlbom, 1844

Java Pate, 1946
  Paraclavelia Haupt, 1930
  Poecilagenia Haupt, 1927
  Priocnemis Schiødte, 1837
  Protoclavelia Arnold, 1932
  Schistonyx Saussure, 1887
  Trachyglyptus Arnold, 1934

Namibia, Kalizo. Photograph © Steve Marshall (University of Guelph).

Namibia, Dans Camp. Photograph © Steve Marshall (University of Guelph).

Namibia. Photograph © Steve Marshall (University of Guelph).




Females hunt a variety of spiders with the larger pompilids targeting Baboon spiders (Theraphosidae) and Rain spiders (Palystes). The paralysed spiders are dragged to a pre-excavated burrow, where they lay an egg on the spider. On hatching the larva feeds on the preserved prey item. Species of Hemipepsis are important specialist pollinators of a diverse assemblage of African plants.


Evans HE & Shimizu A. 1996. The evolution of nest building and communal nesting in Ageniellini (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Pompilidae). Journal of Natural History 30: 1633-1648.

Evans HE & Shimizu A. 1998. Further notes on the nesting behaviour of Ageniellini (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Pompilidae). Journal of Natural History 32: 1411–1412.

Gess FW. 1981. Some aspects of an ethological study of the aculeate wasps and the bees of a karroid area in the vicinity of Grahamstown, South Africa. Annals of the Cape Provincial Museum, Natural History 14: 1–80.

Gess FW, Gess SK. 1974. An ethological study of Dichragenia pulchricoma (Arnold) (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae), a southern African spider-hunting wasp which builds a turreted subterranean nest. Annals of the Cape Provincial Museums 9: 187–214.

Gess FW, Gess SK. 1976. Ethological notes on Dichragenia neavei (Kohl) (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae), an African spider-hunting wasp building a turreted, subterranean nest. Annals of the Cape Provincial Museums 11: 129–134.

Gess, F.W. & Gess S.K. 1977. Bricks without straw the nesting of the wasp Dichragenia pulchricoma (Arnold). The Eastern Cape Naturalist 61: 6-8.

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

Johnson SD. 2005. Specialized pollination by spider-hunting wasps in the African orchid Disa sankeyi. Plant Systematics and Evolution 251: 153–160.

Johnson SD, Ellis A, Dötterl S. 2007. Specialization for pollination by beetles and wasps: the role of lollipop hairs and fragrance in Satyrium microrrhynchum (Orchidaceae). American Journal of Botany 94: 47–55.

Ollerton J, Johnson SD, Cranmer L, Kellie S. 2003. The pollination ecology of an assemblage of grassland asclepiads in South Africa. Annals of Botany 92: 807–834.

Shuttleworth A, Johnson SD. 2006. Specialized pollination by large spider-hunting wasps and self-incompatibility in the African milkweed Pachycarpus asperifolius. International Journal of Plant Sciences 167: 1177–1186.

Shuttleworth A, Johnson SD. 2008. Bimodal pollination by wasps and beetles in the African milkweed Xysmalobium undulatum. Biotropica 40: 568–574.

Shuttleworth A, Johnson SD. 2009a. A key role for floral scent in a wasp-pollination system in Eucomis (Hyacinthaceae). Annals of Botany 103: 715–725.

Shuttleworth A, Johnson SD. 2009b. The importance of scent and nectar filters in a specialized wasp-pollination system. Functional Ecology 23: 931–940.

Shuttleworth A, Johnson SD. 2009c. Specialized pollination in the African milkweed Xysmalobium orbiculare: a key role for floral scent in the attraction of spider-hunting wasps. Plant Systematics and Evolution 280: 37–44.

Shuttleworth A, Johnson SD. 2009d. New records of insect pollinators for South African asclepiads (Apocynaceae: Asclepiadoideae). South African Journal of Botany 75: 689–698.

Shuttleworth A, Johnson SD. 2009e. Palp-faction: an African milkweed dismembers its wasp pollinators. Environmental Entomology 38: 741–747.

Shuttleworth, A. & Johnson, S.D. 2012. The Hemipepsis wasp-pollination system in South Africa: a comparative analysis of trait convergence in a highly specialized plant guild. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 168: 278–299. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8339.2012.01216.x

Steiner KE, Whitehead VB, Johnson SD. 1994. Floral and pollinator divergence in two sexually deceptive South African orchids. American Journal of Botany 81: 185–194.

Saussure H de. 1890-1891. Histoire naturelle des Hymenoptères. Grandidier, Alfred, Histoire physique, naturelle et politique de Madagascar. v. 20. Paris: L'Imprimerie nationale,1890-91.

Wahis, R. 2000. Revision des especes afrotropicales, indo-orientales et australiennes du genre Java Pate 1946 (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae, Pepsinae). Notes Fauniques de Gembloux 38, 43-76.

Waichert, C., von Dohlen, C.D. & Pitts, J.P. 2014. Resurrection, revision and molecular phylogenetics of Eragenia Banks with implications for Ageniellini systematics (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae). Systematic Entomology. doi: 10.1111/syen.12101

Waichert, C., Rodriguez, J., Wasbauer, M. S., von Dohlen, C. D. and Pitts, J. P. 2015. Molecular phylogeny and systematics of spider wasps (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae): redefining subfamily boundaries and the origin of the family. Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society 175: 271–287. doi:10.1111/zoj.12272


Photographs © Simon van Noort (Iziko Museums of South Africa) or © Felicity Grundlingh or © Duncan Butchart or © Frédéric Durand (SHNAO).

Web author Simon van Noort (Iziko South African Museum)


Citation: van Noort, S. 2021. WaspWeb: Hymenoptera of the Afrotropical region. URL: www.waspweb.org (accessed on <day/month/year>).

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