Other Common Names
Elegant Tarantula Hawk (coinage based on Latin name, and common name for Pepsis, though this species may not prey on tarantulas)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Pepsis menechma Lepeletier, 1845
Pepsis elegans Lepeletier, 1845
Pepsis cerberus Lucas, 1895
Pepsis novitia Banks, 1921
(...and many more)
[Note: The old names Pepsis elegans
and Pepsis cerberus
were synonymized under Pepsis menechma
in 2005...see pg. 131 in Part 3 of Vardy(1)
Circa 20-25 mm. A specimen
from North Carolina measured 22 mm body length.
The western "cerberus" form is orange-winged (dark-bordered), with antennae entirely dark (black to dark brown).
The eastern "elegans
" form is a large, blue-black wasp with orange antennae and wings black...likely mimicked by an Ichneumon, Gnamptopelta obsidianator
Rarely encountered is a third form, once known by the name "P. novitia", with orange wings and antennae mostly dark...with a few apical segments orange.
The all black "elegans" form ranges throughout the eastern and central United States. Noted from Missouri, North Carolina, Florida. Apparently the only Pepsis in the east (outside possible strays of P. marginata and P. saphirus from the West Indies).
The orange-winged "cerberus" form is found from Kansas west to Arizona, and south into Mexico.
Summer-early fall. June-September (North Carolina).
Presumably provisions nest with spiders, but not
tarantulas, since much of this wasp's range is outside of that of tarantulas. They likely prey on Trapdoor spiders, as this reference
from Univ. California, Riverside, says that Pepsis
prey on "trapdoor spiders and tarantulas".
and Pepsis cerberus
(its Western counterpart) were recently synonymized under the name Pepsis menechma
, a related genus of large Spider Wasps. See also the Ichneumon, Gnamptopelta obsidianator
Brimley, p. 432, lists season in North Carolina. (2)
Hurd, Paul, 1952. Revision of the Neartic Species of the Pompilid Genus Pepsis(3)
. AMNH Bulletin, 98(4). (Reference from Jeff Hollenbeck