Facts about Sand Wasps

For a small number of people, one or two in every 1,000, the sight of a wasp instills fear. Others aren’t particularly fond of the flying insects, but their sting causes only momentary pain. The sand wasp is not an aggressive member of insects and poses little danger to humans.

Sand wasps are classified as Insecta Order: Hymenoptera, Family of Crabronidae and the genus of Bembix, according to OzAnimals. These are solitary wasps, each female building her own individual nest. She will find sandy soil to make a burrow which slants from six to ten inches, then becomes horizontal for the storage of insects for the wasp egg to feed upon and finally ends in a vertical spur as a place for her to rest. The male wasp digs a shallow burrow as a temporary resting place each night.

Male and female wasps may meet in the air or on a flower. If they decide to mate, this takes place on the flower or ground. The female wasp will find a large insect, if possible, to paralyze and take back to her nest. This insect will be the host of the wasp egg as it develops into larvae.

The wasp will cover the burrow and dig another for laying a new egg. She repeats this process over and over again. Because the female sand wasp collects several insects for her eggs, they are considered extremely valuable to farmers. Sand wasps help control the populations of insect pests that could destroy a farmer’s crops. Among the hundreds of insects used to feed the wasp eggs are cicadas, flies, beetles, caterpillars, potato and squash bugs and grasshoppers. The egg will hatch as a legless larva. The larva eats the insect provided by mom and pupates, emerging from the burrow the next summer.

Male wasps establish their territories in the air space around the burrows and patrol for intruders. Someone walking into the territory  is met with a large wasp hovering in front of the face, zipping to the side and to the back before leaving. The male wasp is not equipped to sting anyone and the female uses her stinger to hunt food for her eggs. She will only sting a person if she is accidentally stepped on or is crushed by a human hand.

Wasps make up a diverse array of insects, with some 30,000 identified species. To identify the sand wasp, look at the lower abdomen. It will be pointed with a narrow waist called a petiole, which separates the abdomen from the thorax. Most sand wasps are yellow and black or white and black with bands that may be yellow or pale green. These wasps are only three-fourths to one inch long. The brighter-colored species of wasps are typically those that will sting humans for getting too close to a nest or appearing to threaten the wasp in some way. Sand wasps are not aggressive and depend on the male to frighten away any would-be intruders.

Large farms and people with home vegetable gardens can order sand wasps to help control pests harmful to crops. The sand wasps pose no danger to humans or other insects that are beneficial to growing crops. They will need sandy soil near the crops that is easily burrowed. If they are unable to build nests close to the crops they will leave the area for more suitable territory. Although the male wasp may be annoying due to his habit of getting in a person’s face and buzzing while hovering, it is absolutely necessary to ignore this and leave the wasp unharmed. He is simply trying to divert any possible harm to his family.

While it may not always be possible to distinguish the harmless sand wasp from one that can and will sting, it is never wise to swat at a wasp or slap it while it is on you. If the wasp is of the aggressive variety and has a stinger, slapping it after it has landed on you may cause it to sting. The best practice is to leave the area. The nest of a social wasp may be close by.