Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Genus Philanthus - Beewolves

Beewolf - Philanthus gibbosus Tiny Wasp? - Philanthus Yellow-masked bee? on coriander flowers - Philanthus gibbosus wasp ? - Philanthus Green-eyed Wasp Digging - Philanthus The Six Wasp Special - #4 of 6 - Philanthus multimaculatus - male Philanthus sp. - Philanthus crabroniformis Humped Beewolf? - Philanthus gibbosus
Classification
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)
No Taxon (Apoid Wasps (Apoidea)- traditional Sphecidae)
Family Crabronidae
Subfamily Philanthinae
Tribe Philanthini
Genus Philanthus (Beewolves)
Explanation of Names
Philanthus Fabricius 1790
Greek 'lover of flowers'
the common name "beewolf" refers to the habit of preying on bees
Numbers
31 spp. in our area(1), ~140 total(2)
Size
12-18 mm(1)
Habitat
Females excavate cavities in soil to use as nests.
Hunting sites include flowers, natural bee nests and apiaries.
Food
Adults feed on nectar, but larvae feed on bees provided by mother at time of egg-laying. Many species prey especially on sweat bees (family Halictidae), but at least one European species favors honeybees (Apis mellifera). (3)
Life Cycle
Provisions with bees or wasps(?), often Halictids (4).
Remarks
The common "European" Beewolf is widespread in tropical to warm temperates regions of Eurasia and Africa.
While it does favor Honeybee (Apis mellifera) workers as preys, it sometimes takes mainly large-sized Halictus females where Honeybees are scarce. Indeed, presence of suitable soils (neither too sandy nor too clayish) in order to dig its long burrows seems more important than abundant Honeybees populations.
Another important factor is a warm, dry summer in the Northern limits of its range, like in my own Geneva region. There, it was much commoner during the late eighties and the nineties than nowadays; summer of 2001 was its last "good year" and it is now quite scarce. On the other hand, bee-keepers have many other things to worry and would certainly prefer numerous beewolves combined wiht colonies in good condition rather than the reverse. --Comment by Richard Vernier
Female beewolves cultivate bacteria in their antenna bases and apply to brood cells. These bacteria keep out potentially harmful bacteria. (Kroiss et al. 2010)
Print References
Bohart R.M. & Grissell E.E. (1975) California wasps of the subfamily Philanthinae (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae). Bull. Calif. Insect Survey 19: 1-92. (Full Text)
Strandtmann R.W. (1946) A review of the North American species of Philanthus, north of Mexico. Graduate School studies. Contrib. Zool. Entomol. 7. Ohio State U.
Internet References
Philanthus specimen images from the Spencer Entomological Museum of Univ. of British Columbia