; order Hymenoptera, suborder Apocrita)
Large family of solitary hunting wasps that are very closely related to the bees and, together with them, form the superfamily Sphecoidea. They differ from the bees in that the body hairs are unbranched and the hind basitarsus has the same width as do the following segments (rather than being wider than them). Sphecids hunt a wide range of insect prey. A few catch spiders, others Collembola. At the level of species, sphecids are prey-specific. There is a tendency for primitive sphecids to hunt primitive insect prey, e.g. cockroaches or crickets, while the more advanced species hunt more highly evolved insect prey, e.g. flies and beetles. There are nine subfamilies, which some recent authors have suggested should be accorded family status. There are 7600 species, with a cosmopolitan distribution. See also hunting wasp.
Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.