Currently viewing the category: "Tarantula Hawks"

Subject: San Diego
Location: San Diego, 92131
November 6, 2012 2:38 pm
Is this a wasp? An ant?
Signature: Peter

Tarantula Hawk

Hi Peter,
The Tarantula Hawk is a large wasp that preys upon Tarantulas.  The are much more impressive alive than they are dead.  The sting of a female Tarantula Hawk is reported to be quite painful, however, they are not aggressive towards people, but they will sting if provoked or carelessly handled.

Subject: Big black bug
Location: Northern (lower) San Pedro River, Cochise County, AZ
June 23, 2012 3:01 pm
Do you have any ideas what this thing is? I’d love to know. I saw it along a wet section of the lower San Pedro River in Cochise County in southern Arizona at around 9:00am on 6/16/12. It was on the edge of the water, moving around a bit from plant to plant but otherwise not doing very much of anything.
Thanks very much!
Signature: LIsa in AZ

Tarantula Hawk: Yes or No???

Hi Lisa,
We do not want to go too far on our identification until we have confirmation or correction from Eric Eaton.  We believe this might be a Tarantula Hawk,
Pepsis mexicana, which we found on BugGuide.

Possibly Pepsis mexicana

Eric Eaton Responds
Yes, either Pepsis grossa (if gigantic), or Pepsis mexicana (if much smaller).

Hi Daniel-
I hope this email actually gets to you!  We certainly have Tarantula Hawks where I live, but I thought they always have orange wings.  Is that not true then?
Thanks very much!

Hi again Lisa,
We are forwarding Eric Eaton’s confirmation.  You can see from the photos of
Pepsis grossa and Pepsis mexicana from BugGuide that there are all black Tarantula Hawks, though orange wings and often orange antennae are the more common and aposomatic coloration for the genus.  BugGuide also notes that Pepsis grossa is:  “Very large, with two color forms: Orange-winged (xanthic) and black-winged (melanic). The two color forms are not often seen in the same locality. Melanic forms are easily confused with Pepsis mexicana, but that species is always much smaller in size than P. grossa.” 

Subject: What is this???
Location: Lake Havasu, Arizona
June 15, 2012 4:26 pm
Can you please tell me what kind of bug this is?
Signature: -Lene Cover

Tarantula Hawk

Hi Lene,
This is a Tarantula Hawk, a large species of Spider Wasp that preys upon Tarantulas to feed its brood.  The female is the hunter and only the female stings.  Males are perfectly harmless, but females are reported to have one of the most painful stings of any insect.  You will be comforted to know that they are not aggressive toward humans, but they should not be handled.  We believe this is a male Tarantula Hawk.  The females often have curled antennae.  There is an entertaining account of Tarantula Hawks on Jack Elliott’s Santa Barbara Adventure.

Wow!!! Thank you so much for the reply! I attempted to kill this thing while on vacation in Havasu, AZ but it spooked me when it started trying to fly and I ran away! Even though it is probably a male and harmless, I am sure glad I got away from it. Thank you again for getting back to me, I appreciate it!

Hi again Lené,
Please take our advice in this matter.  Do not ever try to kill a Tarantula Hawk as it will surely provoke a sting.
  You don’t want to mess with a Tarantula Hawk.  We are not certain this is a male since female Tarantula Hawks can straighten their antennae.  It does not appear that this individual has a stinger, a modification of the ovipositor which males do not possess, but we cannot be sure.

Giant Winged Ant?
Location: El Cajon, CA 92021
September 1, 2011 11:23 am
It looked like a giant ant. It was approximately 2 inches long with a green body that was segmented like an ant and it had brown wings.
The climate when I saw the bug was over cast and cool. It was between 8-9 am. Between 62-70 degrees. It’s generally very hot in this area of San Diego but it’s a very mild morning. It was in the grass and then on a tree (palm).
Hope you can figure it out and let me know because I’m facsinated to know…
Signature: Thanks!

Tarantula Hawk

We really wish we had seen this magnificent Tarantula Hawk, Numero Uno on our Big 5 list of Bugs that really know how to defend themselves around silly humans.

Like our good friend Susan Lutz of Eat Sunday Dinner, we find ways to procrastinate.  Susan now procrastinates by cooking and developing new recipes, like her Procrastination Spaghetti Sauce, and though we have other commitments, we frequently defer them by turning to all the marvelous email requests that are sent to What’s That Bug?  We are supposed to be writing a letter of recommendation for Elizabeth who is applying for a Fulbright Scholar Award, and as the deadline looms upon us, all of the writing to date has been in our mind.  We turned to an old computer for some historical records involving Elizabeth, and we realized that a marvelous photo taken by Joshua Stanley and Marnia Johnston of the Tarantula Hawk on Milkweedfrom our archives was there in its high resolution form.  The photo predates both the acquisition of our new office computer and the site migration we underwent several years ago.  From the current computer and our current WTB? access, only a thumbnail version of this photo was available, and we are now thrilled to republish the image in a higher resolution form.  Just click on the photo to see an enlarged version.  You can do this with all of the photos that were posted after our site migration.

Tarantula Hawk and Milkweed Longhorn on Milkweed

The reason we are especially interested in having a larger resolution version of this photo available is that we have become very interested in the complex ecosystem surrounding milkweed, and we have recently created a Milkweed Meadow tag.  We want to propose a slide presentation and talk to the Theodore Payne Foundation on the insects associated with milkweed, with a concentration of Southern California species that depend upon Esclapias eriocarpa,  Indian Milkweed, and other native Milkweeds that can be purchased at the TPF nursery.  To bring our procrastination full circle, that is Elizabeth weeding recently in Elyria Canyon Park.

Elizabeth Weeds in the Elyria Canyon Park Milkweed Meadow


Possible Tarantula Hawk
Location: San Antonio, TX
July 8, 2011 2:08 pm
Was out takinb pics and got a few of these they were really large 1 to 1.5” and there were at least 50. I was walking slowly through taking flower, plant and bug pics. They did not seem to mind me much, but were more interested in the flowers. Is that what this is?
Signature: Renee

Tarantula Hawk

Hi Renee,
We agree that this is a Tarantula Hawk, and Bugguide has some images of Tarantula Hawks with black tipped wings.

Tarantula Hawk