Identify wasps with long hind legs

Among the numerous species of wasps, those with long hind legs are particularly noticeable. Our overview makes it easier to identify these wasp species.

identify wasp species

If a wasp with long hind legs is discovered, it is very likely a field or spider wasp. The best-known specimens that have these elongated extremities are described in more detail below. This listing makes it easier to identify the wasp species.

Bleigraue Wegwespe (Pompilus cinereus)

  • only wasp species of the genus “Pompilus” in European regions
  • Size: Females between five and 12.5 millimeters; Males between 3.5 and six millimeters
  • Body: black with silvery dusting; crescent-shaped mouthparts, long hind legs
  • Favorite Food: Spiders, especially wolf spiders
  • Whereabouts: preferably sandy and vegetation-free places, also like dune areas
  • Temporal occurrence: early June to early October
  • Special features: females spend the night in dug burrows; build nests in the sand

Spring spider wasp (Anoplius viaticus)

  • Genus: Anoplius
  • Size: females between nine and 14 millimeters; Males between eight and eleven millimeters
  • Body: elongated-slender; predominantly black; first three upper backplates brick red; long front and hind legs and antennae; bristle hair
  • Favorite Food: Spiders, especially wolf spiders
  • Whereabouts: prefers dry and sandy habitats
  • Temporal occurrence: late April to early September
  • Special features: hibernates in the sand; also nests there or along roadsides

Sand wasp (Ammophila sabulosa)

  • common in Europe; not an endangered wasp species
  • Size: Females between 16 and 24 millimeters; Males between 14 and 19 millimeters
  • body: slim; distinct waist; head and chest black; hairy back; orange-red after constriction; Hindquarters black with a slight blue sheen, all legs remarkably long
  • Favorite Food: Caterpillars
  • Whereabouts: prefers sparsely populated areas, also likes sand and gravel pits and embankments with little vegetation
  • Temporal occurrence: mid-May to October
  • Special features: transports food by walking or locomotion with short hops; largest European sand wasp

Pied spider wasp (Deuteragenia variegata)

  • rarely occurs in Europe
  • Size: between five and ten millimeters
  • Body: uniformly black; white spots on wing tips; center of wings brownish, dark bands; all legs including antennae remarkably long, quivering bristles on the lower jaw
  • Favorite Food: Spiders, preferably crab and sac spiders
  • Whereabouts: prefers vineyards, meadow orchards, dry stone walls, forest edges and semi-arid, stony lawns
  • Temporal occurrence: between June and July
  • Special features: stores prey in cavities, sometimes in empty snail shells

Heath paper wasp (Polistes nimpha)

  • Size: workers up to 14 millimeters; drones up to 15 millimeters; Queens up to 16 millimeters
  • Body: black and yellow striped body; head black with few yellow markings; brownish transparent wings; long hind legs appear hanging down in flight
  • Preferred Food: Predominantly soft-skinned, such as caterpillars and numerous other insects
  • Whereabouts: prefers dry, warm locations, likes to be in the middle of heath
  • Temporal occurrence: May to September
  • Special features: builds nests on plant stems

House wasp (Polistes dominula)

  • most common wasp species with long hind legs
  • Common names: French and Gallic paper wasp
  • Size: workers and drones between 11 and 15 millimeters; Queens up to 18 millimeters
  • Body: slim shape; black yellow; orange antennae and legs; harmonious drawings
  • Favorite Food: Caterpillars and flies
  • Whereabouts: Roof undersides (nest site); settlement areas of the people
  • Temporal occurrence: between mid-March and September
  • Special features: appears very peaceful

Kuckuckswegwespe (Ceropales maculata)

  • Common species in Central Europe
  • Size: females 5.5 to ten millimeters; males 4.5 to 7.5 millimeters
  • Body: slim shape; second and third dorsal plates and antennae black; lower antennal flagella orange-colored; white line on head, chest and rump; reddish legs, front legs short, hind legs long
  • Favorite Food: Senses, especially crab spiders
  • Whereabouts: sunny places, like sandy locations
  • Temporal occurrence: early June to late September
  • Special features: lays eggs in the nests of other wasp species, where their offspring eat their offspring

Tönnchenwegwespe (Auplopus carbonarius)

  • non-endangered wasp
  • Size: females seven to ten millimeters; males slightly smaller
  • Body: Females all black; Males have a white spot on the chest and two white stripes around the eyes, very long hind legs and slightly shorter middle and front legs
  • Favorite food: Spiders, especially sac spiders and smooth or flat-bellied spiders
  • Whereabouts: warm places, like on masonry and house walls, also occurs outdoors
  • Temporal occurrence: June to August
  • Special features: nests made of clay; place these mainly behind/under wood and paper, such as books, but also in joints
Note: Wasps of any kind, whether they have long hind legs or not, are insects that provide valuable services to humans. Even if some wasp species are not considered endangered, killing them should be avoided in any case.

Kira Bellingham

I'm a homes writer and editor with more than 20 years' experience in publishing. I have worked across many titles, including Ideal Home and, of course, Homes & Gardens. My day job is as Chief Group Sub Editor across the homes and interiors titles in the group. This has given me broad experience in interiors advice on just about every subject. I'm obsessed with interiors and delighted to be part of the Homes & Gardens team.

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