These wasps are 6-26 mm long, and the body is black, sometimes black with yellow markings. Males are always winged, but females may be winged or apterous and ant-like in appearance. Most species of tiphiids are solitary, ectoparasites of large soil-dwelling insects. They are known to parasitize larvae of tiger beetles, and various ground-nesting bees and wasps. The majority attack beetle larvae, and show a preference for full-grown individuals. Some common species are parasites of white grubs, including June beetles, Phyllophaga species (Scarabaeidae), and the Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica. The single species in the subfamily Diamminae, Dammia bicolor, attacks mole crickets (Gryllotalpidae).

The Tiphia female burrows into the soil to gain access to a scarabaeid larva. The wasp stings the host and injects venom that causes temporary paralysis. After manipulating the beetle larva, she attaches an egg on its abdomen. There are five larval instars, and the beetle grub may not be killed until the last instar. The full-grown wasp larva forms a cocoon in the soil. Adult tiphiids feed on honeydew and nectar, often during the morning hours.

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