North America is home to many species of wasps. Orange and black-orange wasps are highly common in North America where most show parasitic behavior.
Black wasps and orange are to be avoided in most cases. Some of the wasps with a highly dangerous and painful sting are black and orange.
Black and orange wasps are highly common across the US. They are found in Eastern, Western, and Southern parts. Many black and orange wasps are only found in deserts. They abound in California and nearby states.
Wasps may have an orange-dominating color as they can also have a black-dominating color. Many wasps of the same species have very similar coloring with small differences between them.
Are Orange Wasps Dangerous?
Wasps of the Pepsis genus and Velvet Ant mimicking wasps have orange and black coloring. These wasps have some of the most painful stings in the world of insects.
All black and orange wasps should be avoided as they have a very painful sting which can lead to severe reactions that require medical attention. These wasps are experts at paralyzing prey as large as tarantulas which means they have long stingers that can pierce human skin.
17 Orange and Black-Orange Wasps
The following wasp species are highly common in North America. Most are native to the US.
1. Thisbe’s Tarantula-hawk Wasp
This tarantula hawk (Pepsis thisbe) is one of the most feared species in the world of insects. Its powerful sting is to be avoided as it comes with long-lasting paint.
Thisbe’s Tarantula-hawk wasp has orange wings and a black-blue body. A size of up to 2 inches is the maximum length this species can grow to.
While its vivid orange wings make the Thisbe’s Tarantula-hawk wasp look friendly, this species is to be avoided.
The wasp only stings when provoked. It should still be avoided as its sting is one of the most painful stings in the world.
A powerful sting is what makes most predators move away from this species. Roadrunners are among the few exceptions.
2. Noble Scoliid Wasp
This type of wasp (Scolia nobilitata) is a common species across North America. It has a black and orange body with orange bands on the abdomen.
A morph of this species is also seen in a black and brown color combination.
Wasps of the family have known parasitoids. They invade the nests of other insects or bugs or they kill them for their young.
Noble Scoliid wasps are parasitoids of scarab beetles that live in the ground.
While not particularly aggressive towards humans, the Noble Scoliid wasp also possesses a very powerful stinger.
3. Enicospilus purgatus
This wasp species is mostly orange. It has an orange body, orange wings, and orange legs.
The species has distinctive long thin orange antennae.
The specie is a parasitoid wasp. It lays eggs in grubs and it might not easily be seen outdoors as a result.
The Enicospilus purgatus wasp is among the few nocturnal species.
One of the rare occasions to see the wasps is at night when they might be attracted to lights around homes.
4. Eastern Tawny-horned Spider Wasp
The Eastern Tawny-horned Spider wasp (Entypus unifasciatus) has a dark blue to black body with orange wings and orange antennae.
The species can be further distinguished by the coloring of its wing. The wings are only partially orange as the upper part is black.
As their name suggests, Eastern Tawny-horned Spider wasps are natural spider predators.
Adult wasps don’t eat spiders but feed them to larvae.
Spiders are paralyzed and dragged into burrows where an egg is laid on top.
The spider and the egg overwinter in the burrow slowly growing and emerging in the spring.
Eastern Tawny-horned Spider wasps are found across North America except in Northwestern territories.
5. Milde’s Tarantula-hawk Wasp
Growing up to 1.75 inches, Milde’s Tarantula-hawk wasps (Pepsis mildei) are one of the 15 species of Pepsis wasps in the US.
It has black and orange coloring specific to the Pepsis genus. These wasps have orange wings and a black body.
Milde’s Tarantula-hawk wasp requires a tarantula for the survival of the species.
Common in deserts and arid climates, Milde’s Tarantula-hawk wasps isn’t an aggressive species despite its painful and potentially dangerous sting.
6. Sphex lucae
Known for its narrow abdomen, this thread-waisted wasp has a black body with an orange abdomen.
The females of the species are responsible for digging nests in the ground.
Nests are dug using their strong front legs which take out small chunks of soil at once.
These burrows are then used for laying eggs and not for communal living.
Sphex lucae wasps lay a single egg in each burrow and then add an insect to serve as food for the emerging larvae.
Unlike other North American wasps, the Sphex lucae feed caterpillars and katydids to their larvae.
These large insects aren’t killed but paralyzed so they remain immobile for the wasps to lay eggs upon.
7. Trogus pennator
Trogus pennator wasps are common in the Northern Hemisphere.
Wasps of this genus have either black or black and orange colors. The orange morph of the wasp has black wings while the black color of the wasp has orange legs.
Growing to a size of up to 33mm in wingspan, this species is also a parasite wasp.
It feeds on the eggs of multiple species which include the common Zebra Swallowtail.
Trogus pennator are common wasps in the Eastern US territories and Southeast Canada.
8. Smooth-headed Mummy Wasp
The Smooth-headed Mummy wasp (Aleiodes politics) has an orange-dominating color. Its wings are partially orange and partially black.
Smooth-headed Mummy wasps are a parasitoid species.
They feed on nectar but use caterpillars to lay eggs.
Fall armyworm caterpillars are the most common host for their eggs.
The paralyzed caterpillar is used to lay eggs. Caterpillars remain slightly active before being mummified so that they can be consumed later.
9. Acrotaphus wiltii
This species of wasps are also a parasitoid. It might have a role in controlling various insects as it lays eggs directly in the body of the insects.
Wasps of this genus can be recognized by their orange body color. Only small sections of the body are black.
The small head is black. There are 2 black stripes on the orange wings as well.
Wasps of the species have orange legs.
Part of the Ichneumonidae family, the wasps are present on most continents.
Male wasps of this genus can be seen actively looking for food or mates during the day. Females are also diurnal and spend a lot of time looking for insects to lay eggs on.
Female wasps mostly seek out hosts such as moths and butterflies.
10. Caribbean Scoliid Wasp
Caribbean Scoliid wasps (Dielis dorsata) have a mostly black body.
Large orange marks are seen on the abdomen of this species. Its wings are mostly black while the tip of its wings is orange.
Some color differences can be seen within the species. You can find a red and black Caribbean Scoliid wasp as well as an orange and black wasp.
Males are known to be slightly longer than females.
Wasps of the genus visit many flowers to feed on during the day.
While not an important pollinator, Caribbean Scoliid wasps have a minor pollination role.
Wasp of this genus lives solitary lives. They are sometimes seen looking for scarab beetles they are a parasite.
Caribbean Scoliid wasps can create chamber-like underground nests where they lay eggs and the scarab beetles they paralyze.
This is not mandatory, however. Existing crevices or other sheltered areas might be used by the female Caribbean Scoliid wasp to lay eggs.
11. Compsocryptus texensis
This species has an orange-brown body color. 4 black stripes are visible on its wings.
Unlike other orange wasps, the Compsocryptus texensis has an orange head and not a black head.
This species is also known as the Scorpion wasp, mainly due to its elongated flexible body.
Like many orange and black wasps, Compsocryptus texensis can sting.
However, it’s only the females that can sting as males have no stingers.
Adults of the species feed on nectar. Multiple types of flowers are known to attract these wasps.
Males seek out nectar while females are also interested in food for the larvae.
12. Parker’s Thread-waisted Wasp
Parker’s Thread-waisted wasp (Prionyx parkeri) is native to North America with a wider presence in Southern US.
This species has contrasting orange-black coloring. Its abdomen is orange with black stripes. The rest of the body is black while its wings are brown.
You can identify this species by its contrasting colors and the genders within the species by their size.
Parker’s Thread-wasted wasps have considerable sizing differences between males and females.
Females are almost twice the size of males. They measure up to 18.5mm while males measure up to 10mm.
The extra size of the female means the wasp can also dig in the ground to create nests.
Females of the species create underground nests to lay eggs in.
This species is also a known predator of grasshoppers as females feed grasshoppers to the larvae.
Parker’s Thread-wasted wasps pupate in their underground burrows where they feed on grasshoppers.
13. Zeta argillaceum
This orange and black wasp is one of the most common species in South America and extreme Southern parts of the US.
It represents a potter wasp genus that uses water and dirt to create small shelters to lay eggs in.
These shelters or nests measure up to 18mm and are typically created by the female wasp for a single egg.
You can identify these mud-made nests on walls, trees, rocks, and sometimes directly on the ground.
Females prefer to make these mud nests on walls and higher off the ground when possible to avoid predation of the eggs.
14. Pepsis grossa
Pepsis grossa wasps have orange wings and a blue-black body. These wasps have the world’s second most painful sting in the world of insects.
While not very aggressive towards humans, this species can still sting.
Female Pepsis grossa dominates the species when it comes to laying eggs and hunting spiders.
Females paralyze spiders they feed on their larvae.
Only the largest spiders are selected by the female Pepsis grossa for food. An egg is laid on the spider which then serves as food when larvae emerge.
The Pepsis grossa larvae feed on the internal organs of the spider first. The larger the spider, the more it can eat.
Once the organs of the spider have been consumed, the larvae spin a silk cocoon to turn into a pupa and then an adult.
15. Fire-tailed Scoliid Wasp
The Fire-tailed Scoliid wasp (Triscolia ardens) gets its name from its colored abdomen. It has an orange-brown abdomen with bright orange bands.
The rest of the body is black. Its wings are also black.
Strongly resembling other black and orange Scoliid wasps, this species can be identified by its habitat.
Most Fire-tailed Scoliid wasps live in Southwestern US territories.
16. Common Eastern Velvet Ant
The Common Eastern Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla occidentalis) is the largest species of Velvet Ant wasps. These wasps are known for mimicking ants both in coloring and in movements.
It mimics ants in its black and orange coloring. It also moves similarly to ants even if it can fly.
It’s the male Common Eastern Velvet Ant that flies most, mainly looking for females. Male Common Eastern Velvet Ants fly at low altitudes to find new prospective mates.
This species might not have a direct interest in humans as opposed to ants. However, its sting is considered highly painful.
17. Pacific Velvet Ant
Pacific Velvet Ants (Dasymutilla aureola) are highly similar to the Common Eastern Velvet ants. Both have the same orange and black coloring.
You can further differentiate the Common Eastern Velvet Ant from the Pacific Velvet Ant through their habitat.
Pacific Velvet Ants are highly common in California and Baja California.
The Pacific Velvet Ant has a higher preference for arid hot climates and dry soils compared to the Common Eastern Velvet Ant.