The Power of Stupefying Spiders Possessed by Wasps


MR. CECIL'S letters on “The Power of Stupefying Spiders possessed by Wasps” give details of a fact perfectly well known to entomologists, certainly to all those who have studied the Aculeata; but it is well known to the latter that no true wasp, according to the popular understanding of that name, ever supplies its larvæ with insects stupefied in the manner described. The insects alluded to in Mr. Cecil's letters probably belong to the section of aculeate insects usually known as sand-wasps by naturalists, a very misleading name, since a large number are wood-borers. It would render the subject of stupefying much more understandable to the general reader if this was more clearly elucidated; the general term wasp gives no clue in this instance to the insect observed. We have in this country fossorial insects belonging to the genera Pompilus, Priocnemus, Agenia, Aporus, Miscophus, Ammophila, Crabro, Cerceris, philanthus, and some others, all of which stupefy the caterpillars, spiders, or bees, which they store up for the nourishment of their brood, and it would be desirable to have it pointed out to what genera the insects really belong. The species seen by Mr. Cecil, in a collection at Athens, which is described as “a thin-bodied variety”, is, I think, a species of the genus Ammophila, or of Pompilus; that observed by Mr. Armit, of Queensland, is probably a species of Pelopæus. Some further definition of the insects I consider highly desirable, as the general term wasp must, I believe, lead to a very false conclusion.

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SMITH, F. The Power of Stupefying Spiders Possessed by Wasps. Nature 19, 32–33 (1878).

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