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Bee Wolf - Philanthus triangulum
Bee Wolf - Philanthus triangulum

Bee wolf
The bee wolf (Philanthus triangulum) is a species of sphecoid wasp (Spheciformes) in the order Hymenoptera, the suborder Apocrita, the infraorder Aculeata, the superfamily Apoidea, the family Cabronidae, the subfamily Philantinae, and the genus Philanthus.
Bee Wolf - Rear view
Bee Wolf - Rear view
Philanthus triangulum are widespread in the northern hemisphere, but rare due to strong natural fluctuations in population and the use of pesticides in agriculture. Under favourable conditions, this species reproduces twice a year.
Philanthus triangulum - Bee Wolf
Philanthus triangulum - Bee Wolf
The bee wolf is slightly larger than the honey bee. Females reach body lengths of 13 - 18 mm, while the males, 8-10 mm in length, are significantly smaller. Bee wolve’s bodies are elongated, club-shaped and predominantly yellow and black in colour. The markings on their bodies vary from yellow to white to red brown.
Wasp - Bee Wolf
Wasp - Bee Wolf
The head of the bee wolf is big and visibly wider than the front section of the body. The antennae are short and thicker in the middle and point forward during flight. An important characteristic of these insects is the whitish-yellow marking on the forehead, which sometimes resembles a twice or trice jagged crown. The crown-like marking differs on each bee wolf. The males have large mandibles on the head to mark out territory and attract females in the mating season.
Bee Wolf - Top view
Bee Wolf - Top view
The chest (thorax) is usually black, hairy and significantly narrower than the head. The abdomen is usually yellow with black stripes on each segment. Towards the end of each segment the stripes develop into a triangle. The segments can also be yellow-brown, reddish-brown or pure yellow in colour and the stripes can be brown instead of black, or completely missing. The first abdominal segment (propodeum) usually has dense and dotting hair on its surface. The females have a sting for defense at the rear which is missing in the males. The females have strong bristles on their front feet which they use todig. The bee wolf can easily be confused with Bembix rostrata.
Bee Wolf cleans itself (photographed on Gomera)
Bee Wolf cleans itself (photographed on Gomera)
The bee wolf is a solitary wasp and prefers warm, dry, sunny habitats. It is found in flat grassland, heaths, dry meadows and open sandy places. It can be encountered on the edges of sandy pits, on sunken roads, and also occasionally near areas populated by humans. Adult bee wolves are active from June to September.
Sphecoid wasp - Philanthus triangulum
Sphecoid wasp - Philanthus triangulum
While the males feed on the nectar of various plants, the females in Central Europe prey solely on the workers of honey bees (Apis mellifera). To detect prey they deploy their visual skills as well as their strong sense of smell. When a flying honey bee is clearly identified, the attack is immediate. The bee wolf catches the prey with its front legs and, using its sting, injects poison into the uppersurface of the waist of the prey. The correct place to sting is located with special sensitive hairs. The bee cannot resist, because its own sting cannot fix onto the smooth surface of the bee wolf and is thus not able to penetrate the outer surface. The bee wolf’s sting causes speedy paralysis of the honey bee. The bee wolf then presses out nectar and body fluid from the prey with its powerful front legs and eats this immediately. The bee itself is not consumed and is subsequently dropped. Transport of the prey into the bee wolf’s nest is only to supply food for the larvae. The females occasionally also feed on nectar, which they obtain directly from flowers.
The females dig tube-like tunnels for their eggs, into the ground in sandy slopes, roads, embankments, or even in the sandy joints between sidewalk slabs. The tunnels are 1 - 1. 5 metres in length. At the end are 5 - 7 (sometimes even more) chambers the size of pigeon eggs, which house the brood and their food. The jaws of the bee wolf are particularly robust and strongly built (is this related to the tunnel digging. They also have strong, solid spikes on their front feet which are helpful for digging.
After completion of the nests, the eggs are laid, one in each breeding cell. After 2-3 days the white maggot-like larvae hatch, and are fed with captured honey bees by the mother. The female larvae clearly receive greater consideration than the males. The larvae live inside the body of the bees. After each flight for new supplies of bees the mother bee wolf seals the entrance to the tunnel, to protect the larvae from intruders (eg beetles). When the nest is located on steep slopes, however, the entrances stay open. About a week after hatching, the larvae spin a bottle-shaped cocoon, in which they pupate.
Hedychrum rutilans ichneumous lives off bee wolf larvae. Female Hedychrum rutilans lay their eggs on the mother bee wolf or on the prey she’s carrying and in this way the Hedychrum rutilans larvae gain access to the bee wolf’s nest. Bee wolf larvae overwinter as pupae and hatch as adults in June of the following year.

Philanthus triangulum
Common namesEuropean beewolf, Bee-eating philanthus, Bee Wolf
German namesBienenwolf
Dutch namesBijenwolf
Danish namesBiulv
Finnish namesMehiläishukka
Swedish namesBivarg
AuthorJohann Christian Fabricius, 1775

North Europe (British Isles (United Kingdom (Great Britain (England (English Midlands (East Midlands (Leicestershire)))))), Germany (West Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia)), Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), Fennoscandia (Finland), Baltic region (Baltic States (Estonia))), West Europe (Austria, France, Switzerland, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg)), South Europe (Italy (Italy Islands (Sicily, Sardinia), North Italy, South Italy), Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal)), Central Europe (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic (Moravia, Bohemia)), Southeast Europe (Greece, Yugoslavia (Croatia))
West Asia (Near East (Turkey, Israel, Egypt))
East Africa
Tanzania, Indian Ocean islands (Madagascar), Zimbabwe, Kenya
North Africa
Algeria, Tunisia
West Africa
Southern Africa
Lesotho, Republic South Africa
North America

Ecozones: Palaearctic

CountriesAlgeria, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, USA, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe
Links and ReferencesPhilanthus triangulum in
Philanthus triangulum in
Philanthus triangulum in Wikipedia (English)

Description of images / photos
Photography with Cameras
Nikon D3x, Nikon D300, Canon 50D
Image editing with Photoshop
1. Bee Wolf - Philanthus triangulum
2. Bee Wolf - Rear view
3. Philanthus triangulum - Bee Wolf
4. Wasp - Bee Wolf
5. Bee Wolf - Top view
6. Bee Wolf cleans itself (photographed on Gomera)
7. Sphecoid wasp - Philanthus triangulum
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Philanthus triangulum
European beewolf, Bee-eating philanthus, Bee Wolf
AuthorFabricius, 1775
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