Center for Systematic Entomology, Gainesville, Florida


Date of this Version



Kurczewski FE, West RC. 2023. Evaluation of North American spider wasp (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae) common names. Insecta Mundi 0989: 1–8.


Published on April 28, 2023 by Center for Systematic Entomology, Inc. P.O. Box 141874 Gainesville, FL 32614-1874 USA

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons, Attribution Non-Commercial License,


The use of common names for species and subspecies of North American spider wasps (Hymenop­tera: Pompilidae) presents a variety of questions for pompilid specialists as most pompilid taxa are difficult to identify, even under the microscope. Some common names currently being used for spider wasp species are acceptable while others are misleading, unfit and unacceptable. Opinions on the relative value of common names for spider wasps from current Pompilidae researchers are given in the Introduction. Eleven inappro­priate common names for North American Pompilidae species and subspecies are identified and discussed in the Results.

The use of common names for fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals has been a satisfactory way of distinguishing and identifying animals for centuries. These animals are often readily identified because they are large, highly visible and many genera have only a few, easily recognizable species. Insects are another matter. The number of insect species on earth exceeds 5.5 million (Stork 2018). The number of spider wasp (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae) species on earth approximates 5000 (Pitts et al. 2005). Spider wasp species are usually not easily recognizable unless they are placed under the microscope and, even then, males and females of many species are difficult to identify. Many species are black in color and remarkably similar in size and structure. Genera such as Pepsis Fabricius (135 species), Hemipepsis Dahlbom (~180 species), and Auplopus Spinola (~150 species) have numerous similar species, making their identification extremely difficult. Many pompilid species can be identi­fied only by extraction and examination of the male genitalia, a painstaking and delicate procedure. Numerous species of spider wasps are known only from the male sex as some females such as Anoplius marginatus (Say) complex are impossible to identify (Evans 1951). For these reasons attaching a common name to a spider wasp species can be an insurmountable task. Some prominent hymenopterists are, in fact, opposed to assigning and using common names for species of Pompilidae.