Tarantula wasps are also called tarantula hawk wasps and they hunt for tarantulas that are used as food for the wasps young. Tarantula hawk wasps grow as long as 50 millimetres long, have a black-blue body with rust coloured wings.
Tarantula hawk wasps are among the largest wasps found around the world. The tarantula hawk wasps wings are brightly coloured in order to warn possible predators that they are dangerous preventing them from being attacked. At the end of their legs are hook-like claws that they use to grapple onto their victims with.
Female tarantula hawk wasps have a stinger that can be as long as 7 millimetres long as well as the wasps being able to deliver venom in a sting that is among the most painful in the world from an insect.
Tarantula hawk wasps prefer female tarantulas during their reproductive season as male tarantulas at this time are very skinny as they starve during their search for a female to mate with. The tarantula hawk wasp searches for female tarantulas in their burrows, the tarantula hawk wasp will capture then sting to paralyze the tarantula. Once the tarantula has been paralyzed by the tarantula hawk wasp, the wasp then drags the spider to her burrow or another nest created close by. The spider is placed inside the nest where a single tarantula hawk wasp egg is laid onto the spider. The entrance to the tarantula hawk wasps nest is then covered to prevent anything getting to it. Once the wasp egg hatches into larvae, the larvae then chew a small hole into the spider through its abdomen. The larvae then feed on the spider leaving the vital organs till last in order to keep the spider fresh. After a couple of weeks, the larvae finish feeding and pupates into an adult ripping its way out of the spider’s abdomen. The new tarantula hawk spider digs its way out of the nest to carry on the life cycle.
Tarantula hawk wasps also feed on fermented fruit that can intoxicate them resulting in flying becoming very difficult. The tarantula hawk wasps are most active during the day in summer months while avoiding very high temperatures.
Male tarantula hawks do not feed on tarantula spiders. Instead, they feed on flowers of milkweeds, western soapberry trees and mesquite trees. Male tarantula hawk wasps have a particular behaviour called hill-topping. Hill topping for the wasps is when he sits on top of a tall plant and watches out for a female tarantula hawk wasp that is ready for mating.
Tarantula hawk wasps can be found in:
Tarantula wasps rarely sting people as they are very docile however, if provoked they may sting. Their sting is among the most painful in the insect world while only lasting for around 3 minutes. The sting is said to be immediate and excruciating with the victim unable to do anything other than scream with pain for the 3 minutes.