Spilomena troglodytes♂︎

Last update: 10 December 2022


SPECIES: Spilomena troglodytes




Official name


Spilomena troglodytes [1]

Spilomena vagans

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Greek: cave-dweller

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎


1. Distribution
2. Behaviour
3. Plant relations
4. Prey relations
5. Parasitic relations
6. Identification


Spilomena troglodytes is a rare wasp [2] occurring throughout the Netherlands [3,9] with an exception of the coastal provinces and the wadden islands [3]. It is the most common representative of the genus in the Netherlands [9].



The species is active from beginning of June to half September [3].

Males frequently can be found swarming around bushes and trees [3,12].



Females nest in existing cavities [3,4,5,9,12] in old wood [4,5,9,12], twigs [4] and abandoned beetle boreholes [9,12], with a preference [12] of those made by Anobium sp. (Anobiidae) [3,12] (Anobium rufipes [6], Microbregma emarginatum [6]). She will gnaw her own nest as well in the marrow of plant stems [3].

Existing boreholes are cleaned before use [3,12]. Gnawed corridors are about 4-12cm in length [5]. The corridors have a diameter of 1,0-1,4mm [5,8] and a length of 3,5-6 mm [8].

The brood cells are placed sequentially in a row within the nest cavity [3,5,12]. The brood cells are separated by a 1-2mm thick bulkhead made of wood dust [5] or a 0,2-7mm wedge-shaped pith plug [8]. Every cell contains 50-60 thrips [3,12]. Cells for females and males are equal in size [8].

The filled nest is closed with a wood pulp plug that is tamped using the abdomen [3,13]. The outermost layer is fortified by mixing the wood pulp with saliva that hardens as it dries [3] into a somewhat shiny disc [12].

Females find their nest using smell and as a result normally take a lot of time to find it after returning from the hunt, which is typical in the genus Spilomena [5,12]. They will scout around a large surface around the assumed nest position until they smelled it out using the antennae [5]

Development time

The development time of the relatively large (1,25 mm), weakly saussage-like bent [12] egg is unknown. The matt white cocoons are attached to the cell wall and occupy almost the entire cell length [8].

Gender development

The male and female brood cells are randomly placed in the nest cavity [5]. There are more female than male cells which results in a surplus of female over males in a ratio of 2:1 [5].


The males as well as the females can be found on bee hotels. Females use them to nest.
From my own observation of a male arriving early in the evening I suspect the males to use empty boreholes as resting place, see here.


Most Crabronidae females produce one generation per year [8].


The prey is transported using the mandibles [4,12].


3.1. WOOD

The following wood types are mentioned in literature as medium for the wasp to built her nests in:


Sambucus (Elder) [8]

Alnus (Elm) [3]

Betula (Birch) [3]

Carpinus (Hornbeam) [3]

Picea abies (Norway spruce) [6]

Crataegus (Hawthorn) [3]

Rubus (Bramble) [7,8]
Salix (Willow) [3]

Aesculus (Horse chestnut)
Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) [6]
Table 3.1-1: wood types used as nest substrate

Fence poles [3] or thatched roofs [12] may be used as well.


Males feed with honeydew that is licked from leafs.
The following wood types are mentioned in literature as foodsources:

Peucedanum [5]

Foeniculum [5]

Angelica [5]
Angelica archangelica [5]
Table 3.2-1: Food plants in the Netherlands

Garden species

In the garden Foeniculum vulgare is present but I have not observed the species on it.


The species uses mainly nymphs of thrips (Thysanoptera) for her brood [3,4,5,9,12]. Observations have been reported on the use of Psyllids (Psyllidae) nymphs [4] and the nymphs of Scale insects (Coccidae) and Aphids (Aphidoidea) [4].

The following species and group occurring in the Netherlands [1] are mentioned in literature:

Aphidoidea (Aphids) [4,5]
Coccidae (Scale insects) [4,5]
Psyllidae (Psyllids) [4]
Thysanoptera (Thrips) [4]
Table 4-1: Prey species in the Netherlands

Garden species

At least Thrips and Aphids are present in the garden.


The following species and group occurring in the Netherlands [1, 2(Oscinella nigerrima)] are mentioned in literature:


Ichneumonidae (Ichneumon wasps)

Neorhacodes enslini [3,8,10,12]

Chalcidoidea (Chalcid wasps)


Torymus armatus [3,8(as Diomorus armatus)]

Chloropidae (Frit flies)

Oscinella nigerrima [4]
Table 5-1: Parasitic species in the Netherlands


Length males: 2 – 3 mm
Length females: 2,5 – 3 mm


The genus Spilomena can be identified using the following characters:

1.  Forewing: with two submarginal cells [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, Spilomena: front wing with two submarginal cells

2. Forewing: submarginal cell 2 not petiolate [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, Spilomena: second submarginal cel not petiolate

3. Forewing: pterostigma large and almost semicircular [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, Spilomena: front wing with large, almost semi-circular pterostigma

4. Forewing: radial cell longer than pterostigma [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, Spilomena: front wing; length stigma shorter than length radial cell

5. Forewing: radial cell tip sharp [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, Spilomena: front wing radial cell pointed

6. Forewing: with one discoidal cell [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, Spilomena: front wing with one discoidal cell

7. Abdomen: first abdominal segment not petiolate [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, Spilomena: first abdominal segment not petiolate

8. Abdomen: entirely black [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, Spilomena: abdomen entirely black

1. Antenna with 12 segments [9,10,11]

2. Abdomen with 6 segments [9,10,11]


1. Clypeus evenly rounded [10]

2. Mandible usually light brown, seldom dark brown [10]

3. Ratio distance between hind ocelli (POL) : distance hind ocellus to eye edge (OOL) = 1,4 – 2,0 [10,11]

4. Back head less strongly developed [10]


1. Frontal scutellem furrow narrow and without transverse carinae [10,11]

2. Apical edge mesonotum without longitudinal grooves [10]

3. Wing veins brown [10]

4. Dorsal field propodeum not limited by carina, at least at the base with net-like wrinkles between the main sculpture [10]


  1. Tergite 6 with double longitidunal carina [10]

specimen caught for identification on 10-vi-2021, length ±3mm

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎
Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎
Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎
Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎
Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, propodeum
Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, propodeum

1. Antenna with 13 segments [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, antenna with 13 segments

2. Abdomen with 7 segments [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, abdomen with seven segments

3. Face and clypeus yellow, at least the front edge yellow (here face and clypeus) [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, face (F) and clypeus (C) with yellow markings


1. Frontal edge clypeus not or lightly indented (here lightly indented) [10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, front edge clypeus lightly indented

2. Mandible distally with small red-brown spot [10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, mandibel distally with narrow red brown band

3. Clypeus entirely or almost entirely yellow [9,10]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, clypeus entirely or almost entirely yellow

4. Ratio distance between hind ocelli (POL) : distance hind ocellus to inner eye edge (OOL) = 1,4 – 2,0 (here ±1,4) [10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, ool = 1,4-2,0x pol

5. Antennal members clearly restricted, bead-like [9,10,11]

6. Antennal flag dark, at most more or less red-brown on the inside [9]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, antennae bead-like restricted


1. Frontal scutellum furrow narrow and without transverse carinae [9,10,11]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, basal scutellum furrow narrow, without transverse carina

2. Dorsal field propodeum not limited by carina [9,10,11], at least at base with fine net-like wrinkles between the main sculpture [10]

Spilomena troglodytes ♂︎, dorsal field propodeum not limited by carina, at least at base with fine net-shaped wrinkles between the main sculpture


no specific characters


1 Nederlands Soortenregister

2 Waarneming.nl

3 Peeters, T.M.J., C. van Achterberg, W.R.B. Heitmans, W.F. Klein, V. Lefeber, A.J. van Loon, A.A. Mabelis, H. Nieuwen-huijsen, M. Reemer, J. de Rond, J. Smit, H.H.W. Velthuis, 2004. De wespen en mieren van Nederland (Hymenoptera: Aculeata). – Nederlandse Fauna 6. Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum Naturalis, Leiden, knnv Uitgeverij, Utrecht & European Invertebrate Survey – Nederland, Leiden.

4 Bohart, R.M. & A.S. Menke, 1976. Sphecid wasps of the world: a generic revision. - University of California Press, 695 p.

5 Blösch, M. (2000). Die Grabwespen Deutschlands – Lebens‐weise, Verhalten, Verbreitung. 71. Teil. In Dahl, F.: Die Tierwelt Deutschlands. Begr.: 1925. – Keltern (Goecke & Evers). – 480 S. 341 Farbfotos. ISBN 3‐931374‐26‐2 (hardcover). DM 98,–. Zool. Reihe, 78: 353-353. https://doi.org/10.1002/mmnz.20020780208

6 Vikberg, Veli. (2000). A re-evaluation of five European species of Spilomena with a key to European species and relevance to the fauna of North Europe, especially Finland (Hymenoptera : Pemphredonidae). Entomologica Fennica. 11. 35-55. 10.33338/ef.84044.

7 VAN LITH, J. P. De Nederlandse Spilomena-soorten (Hym. Sphecidae). Entomologische Berichten, 1955, 15.24: 525-527.

8 DANKS, Hugh V. Biology of some stem‐nesting aculeate Hymenoptera. Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London, 1971, 122.11: 323-395.

9 KLEIN, Wim. De graafwespen van de Benelux. Jeugdbondsuitgeverij, Utrecht, 1996, 1-130. + KLEIN, Wim. De graafwespen van de Benelux: supplement. Jeugdbondsuitgeverij, 1999.

10 JACOBS, H. J (2007): Die Grabwespen Deutschlands Ampulicidae. Sphecidae, Crabronidae–Bestimmungsschlüssel in Blank, SM & Taeger, A (Hrsg): Die Tierwelt Deutschlands und der angrenzenden Meeresteile nach ihren Merkmalen und nach ihrer Lebensweise, Hymenoptera III–Keltern, Goecke & Evers, 79: 1-207.

11 Hermann Dollfuss, "Bestimmungsschlüssel der Grabwespen Nord- und Zentraleuropas (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae) mit speziellen Angaben zur Grabwespenfauna Österreichs", Publikation der Botanischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft am O.Ö.Landesmuseum Linz, LINZ, 20. Dezember 1991

12 LOMHOLDT, O. 1975-1976; 1984 (2. Auflage). The Sphecidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica, 4.1: 2.

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