Saturday, June 13, 2020

Tarantula Hawk

I've seen quite a few tarantula hawks flying near Hayfield Road. They are distinctively black with red wings. On June 13 I was at Corn Springs looking at a blooming Smoketree and noticed this tarantula wasp walking among the flowers on the bush. I was not sure if it was a beetle or wasp (it was so big that I thought it had to be a beetle), and verified it was a wasp when I got home. 
From this angle, it looked like a beetle. Even the antennae looked like a beetle. 
It is a spider wasp. The female stings a tarantula between the legs and paralyzes it. She then drags it into a hole, lays an egg on the abdomen and covers it up. When the wasp larva hatches it creates a hole in the tarantula's abdomen and enters and fees on it, eventually killing the spider. The wasp emerges from the spider's abdomen as an adult. 
The metallic color shows up here and the abdomen clearly looks like a wasp.
As an adult it is nectarivorous - it feeds on the nectar of flowers such as milkweeds, western soapberry and mesquite. I saw this one among the flowers of the smoketree. 
It is huge - up to two inches long. It has bright red wings and a black/blue/metallic body. It has a stinger up to one-third inch long and has one of the most painful stings of any insect. 

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget the part about if you get stung you might temporarily lose control of your limbs and should sit down immediately. Please give these creepy crawlies wide berth.