Priocnemis monachus

Sleek and black, with smoky-looking wings, these large wasps are famous for their ability to find and subdue spiders that are much larger than they are. You might have come across one dragging a spider back to her lair, looking a bit like a small helicopter trying to move a large bulldozer.

You might also have seen these wasps on the hunt, moving with quick, darting motions and twitching antennae as they investigate potential hiding places for their spider targets.  They are known to chase large tunnelweb spiders out of their own webs. A brief wrestling match follows, usually ending in victory for the wasp when she stings her opponent. That’s enough to render the spider completely helpless, and ready for the wasp to take to her nest. There, the still living but paralysed spider will serve as food for one of the wasp’s grubs. Eventually, the grub will pupate, and a new wasp will emerge.

All the drama of hunting spiders is the work of females. Males spend their time feeding on nectar and waiting around for females to mate with.

These wasps are found throughout New Zealand.

Check these links for more info on the Black Hunting Wasps in NZ Observations of Priocnemis monachus

Wikipedia: Information on Priocnemis monachus

Australian Museum: Spider wasps

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