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Black Spider Wasp  - Anoplius? - Anoplius

Black Spider Wasp - Anoplius? - Anoplius
Lake Roosevelt, Ferry County, Washington, USA
August 22, 2008
This shows the bristles on the last tergite. 4 of 5 photos

Images of this individual: tag all
Black Spider Wasp  - Anoplius? - Anoplius Black Spider Wasp - Anoplius - female Black Spider Wasp - Anoplius - female Black Spider Wasp - Anoplius - female

I'm unfamiliar with the Washington fauna so I'm not going to speculate about the species. However, it looks rather hairy and seems to have a well developed tarsal rake, so that means it might be a species in the subgenus Lophopompilus.

Thanks Nick.
I'll ask around. An aculeate wasp survey in the BC portion of this arid ecoregion turned up Anoplius (Lophopompilus) aethiops (Cresson) and Anoplius (Lophopompilus) cleora (Banks).

Anoplius cleora?
There's a good key for A. aethiops and A. cleora at - sounds like cleora is a match based on the 4 comb spines on the anterior basitarsus. Can't get a make on the clypeus.

I missed something I only counted three comb-spines on the anterior basal tarsomere. Since you saw the wasp "live" it's up to you whether you want to make a call or not. However, aethiops and cleora are sometimes difficult to separate without having specimens for direct comparison, or lacking any data on habitat. A. cleora seems to be fairly selective of its habitat, preferring dune areas or other areas with very loose sand and sparse vegetation. This is probably the reason for its more developed tarsal rake, which can appear to have as few as three and as many as five, depending on the age of the specimen and the subsequent wear it would have received from nestings. A. aethiops usually has three spines of moderate length, sometimes with a short fourth. Again, subject to wear. They are usually subject to more wear because that species tends to nest in heavier soils and is less selective about habitat. The emargination of the clypeus is a fairly useful character if A) you have had extensive experience with the range of variation between the two species; or B) you have a series of specimens available for direct comparison. Another behavioral character: cleora is less likely to visit flowers, although I have captured them taking nectar from Daucus carota and Asclecpias sp. in Ohio.

A clearer view and habitat characterization
I uploaded another photo with a clearer view of the basitarsus, which looks to me like four comb spines. I'm not at all familiar with these insects and would need to defer to someone more experienced to make a call though...this is a new one to me.

Regarding soil type, this area is primarily silty sand to sandy silt that settled out of glacial lake Columbia in the Bretz floods, with sandy beaches that get inundated, but no dunes to speak of. Semi-arid vegetation types are relatively sparse though, with mostly bitterbrush and rabbitbrush with Eriogonum niveum and grasses such as bluebunch wheatgrass and needle and thread grass, a sand loving bunchgrass. Lots of mouse and insect burrows are apparent in the sand, especially on hillsides.

I've seen similar looking black spider wasps from spring through late summer, and this was the first one I've seen nectaring. I saw several others hunting on the ground and one also in snow buckwheat, but apparently hunting as it ran across flowers and up and down stems with wings flicking, and flew away quickly.

That's the basal tarsomere...
but on the wrong leg. I'm also not familiar with habitat choice between the two species in the west, but there could be some overlap. The comb-spines of cleora (on the basal tarsomere of the front leg) tend to be much longer (sometimes about four times as long as the width of the tarsomere) and sometimes slightly expanded apically.

That would explain it...
Sorry about my dyslexia, Nick. I do know the meaning of anterior, yet every time I read it I thought the opposite! It does indeed have 3 comb spines on the basal tarsomere on the front leg. :)

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