15 species in three subgenera (Sphictostethus, Priocnemissus, and Priocnemis).
5-15 mm, females generally slightly larger.
Possesses characters of the subfamily Pepsinae, tribe Pepsini:
Groove in second sternite, crease on side of first tergite marking off an epipleuron, side of first tergite straight sided or slightly convex when viewed from above.
Serrate hind tibia in both sexes.
Lacks pocket in basioposterior corner of third discal cell and spine pits on dorsal side of hind femur.
Labrum at least partially concealed under clypeus.
Spines at end of hind tibia of equal size and spacing.
Lacks bristles on underside of apical tarsal segments
Has second transverse cubital vein straight anteriorly but strongly curved posteriorly.
Most similar structurally to Caliadurgus:
Females lack stout, spine-like bristle at apex of foretibia.
Anal lobe oblong, not subtriangular and without a straight side.
Pronotum of "normal" length.
Most individuals of Caliadurgus marked with red, but only some Priocnemis.
Transcontinental. Many are widespread, others are either restricted or little known.
Varied. Many inhabit woods but some are also found in open areas (meadows, waste places, etc.)
The subgenus Priocnemissus, which includes the very common Priocnemis minorata, is vernal and can be found as early as March in southern parts of its range. Other species are found from late May through September in most of the country.
Adults uncommonly visit flowers. Prey species are extremely variable and as a genus they take spiders from nearly every common family in North America.
Most species do not dig burrows from the surface of the ground but instead dig chambers off the side of a pre-existing crevice or mammal burrow. Many species have several (2-3 in the north) generations per year.
Two species were described in 1986 by Marius Wasbauer that obviously would not be included in the references below, P. kevini and P. lasiura.
Townes, H.K. 1957. Nearctic wasps of the subfamilies pepsinae and ceropalinae. U.S. Nat. Mus. Bull. 209: 1-286. (species descriptions, distribution, keys).
Krombein, K.V. 1979. Pompilidae, pp. 1523-1571. In Krombein, K.V., P.D. Hurd, Jr., D.R. Smith, and B.D. Burks, eds. Catalog of Hymenoptera in America North of Mexico. Vol. 2 Apocrita (Aculeata). Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, D.C. (list of species, except recently described [see Remarks], prey records, distribution)