Giant black ant with wings? Fri, Jun 12, 2009 at 7:13 PM
Ok, what is this thing? My son found it in our Southern CA backyard on a cool June day. We live in a desert area. I have never seen anything like this. It looked like a giant plastic ant, about 2 – 2 1/2 inches long, but with wings. It flew all around the yard and and climbed up the house wall for a while. Any idea what it is?
Michael and Amanda in Santa Clarita
Canyon Country, CA
Dear Michael and Amanda,
There is no way we can possibly answer the hundreds of emails that arrived in our week long absence, so we are only selecting subject lines that catch our attention. Your great subject line and spectacular photo of a Tarantula Hawk prompted us to choose your letter this morning. Tarantula Hawks are Spider Wasps in the genus Pepsis. The adult female stalks, does battle with, and stings and paralyzes Tarantulas to feed her brood, eventually burying the paralyzed Tarantula in a burrow and laying an egg. The hatchling wasp larva then has fresh meat upon which to feed. The sting of a female Tarantula Hawk is reported to be extremely painful. Male Tarantula Hawks do not sting. The antennae of the female are curled and those of the male more straight. Both adult male and female Tarantula Hawks feed on pollen and they are especially attracted to milkweed. We have seen large Tarantula Hawks in the Los Angeles River Bed, but they are more commonly found in desert areas like Joshua Tree. The largest examples we have ever seen, the size of a small bird, were on the beach in San Felipe Baja California Mexico.