What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

half the size of my hand, orange antennae that curl back, hairy, orange wings, black body, 8 legs
Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 9:20 AM
I was walking outside and I saw this bug following me on the sidewalk. I let it pass me as I walked behind it I noticed how big it was and that it was not flying. I had to chase it to take a picture of it because it walks fast. IT has orange wings, orange hairy antennae that curl back when it touched something, a hairy black,blue body, look like a stinger back end but no stinger was present, big eyes, and when I captured it, it started to lay eggs which made me more interested. What type of bug is this?
Jen
Riverside, California, United States

Tarantula Hawk

Tarantula Hawk

Hi Jen,
This is a female Tarantula Hawk, a wasp in the genus Pepsis. You miscounted the number of legs, which should only be six.  We are quite curious about your observation that upon capture, the Tarantula Hawk laid eggs. Here is what Charles Hogue writes about Tarantula Hawk in his book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin: “When a female wasp finds a tarantula, she alights and engages in battle. The wasp then stings the spider on the underside between the legs and usually succeeds in paralyzing but not killing it. She has previously dug a shallow burrow, using her mandibles and legs as pick and shovel, or selected an earth crack, rodent burrow, or even the burrow of a tarantula for a nest, and she now drags the paralyzed prey into this hole, lays an egg on the victim, and then seals the tunnel with soil. A supply of fresh food is thus insured for the developing larva. The sting of the female tarantula hawk is described as extraordinarily painful by those who have experienced it.”

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

2 Responses to Tarantula Hawk

  1. John says:

    They are a plague in the Burbank CA Verdugo mountain trails and Griffith Park area. They buzz the hiking trails and sometimes get thick. Once I found out how dangerous they are, I don’t hike the trails in Summer. Only paved roads. My question is, if they hit a human on the trail when they are flying fast, will they sting the human or little child?

    • bugman says:

      We have a hard time thinking about a native species that does not compromise human food sources or occur in such great numbers as to constitute a nuisance as being a plague. Tarantula Hawks are not aggressive towards humans, but they will sting if provoked. We doubt that an accidental collision with a human, either adult or child, will result in a sting.

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