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Species Pepsis menechma

Tarantula Hawk? - Pepsis menechma Male Male Curated Pepsis specimen from CAS collection - Pepsis menechma - female Curated Pepsis specimen from CAS collection - Pepsis menechma - female Elegant Tarantula Hawk - Pepsis menechma - male Black Beauty, iridescent blue - Pepsis menechma? - Pepsis menechma - female ? - Pepsis menechma - female
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies)
No Taxon (Aculeata - Ants, Bees and Stinging Wasps)
Superfamily Pompiloidea (Spider Wasps, Velvet Ants and allies)
Family Pompilidae (Spider Wasps)
Subfamily Pepsinae
Tribe Pepsini
Genus Pepsis (Tarantula Hawks)
Species menechma (Pepsis menechma)
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. Vardy (2005), p. 133, gives body lengths: 18-26 mm (male), 16-28 mm (female).
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, Thyreodon atricolor:

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).
Adults take nectar.
Life Cycle
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 (dead link) from Univ. California, Riverside, says that Pepsis prey on "trapdoor spiders and tarantulas".
Vardy (2005) states that there are no prey records for Pepsis menechma and closely-related species.
Pepsis elegans and Pepsis cerberus (its Western counterpart) were recently synonymized under the name Pepsis menechma (by Vardy(1) in 2005).
See Also
Entypus, a related genus of large Spider Wasps. See also the Ichneumon, Thyreodon atricolor.
Print References
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.)
Vardy, C.R. The New World tarantula-hawk wasp genus Pepsis Fabricius (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae). Part 3. The P. inclyta- to P. auriguttata-groups. Zool. Med., Leiden 79 (5), 16.xii.2005, 1-305, fi gs 1-689.— ISSN 0024-1652(link)
Internet References
North Carolina State University Entomology Collection--55 pinned, including specimens from that state.
Works Cited
1.The New World tarantula-hawk wasp genus Pepsis Fabricius (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae).
C. R. Vardy. 2005. Zoologische Verhandelingen / Zoologische Mededelingen.
2.Insects of North Carolina
C.S. Brimley. 1938. North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
3.Revision of the Nearctic species of the Pompilid genus Pepsis (Hymenoptera, Pompilidae)
Paul D. Hurd. 1952. American Museum of Natural History, New York.