Currently viewing the category: "Tarantula Hawks"

Tarantula Hawk vs. Tarantula
Dear What’s That Bug Folks,
First, I love your site, and recommend it to every natural history buff I encounter! I have to be careful not to spend TOO much time on here perusing all the amazing photos and the answers you provide. Second, I live in Southern California on the San Diego/Riverside County line and a few weeks ago we happened to spot our first tarantula here so I ran to get the camera. I was very excited until a very large Tarantula Hawk buzzed onto the scene. We realized that it was too late to save this spider as the wasp had already stung and paralyzed him. I got photos of the wasp as she drug the spider down one slope, across the driveway, and down another slope into a hole she had already discovered or dug. My husband reluctantly agreed to use his foot for scale in the first photo, but that was before I told him that pepsis wasp stings were reportedly very painful! Thanks for such a great bug resource,
cindy m.
San Diego CA

Hi Cindy,
As far as photographs on our site go, this series has to rank in the uppermost percentile. Thank you so much for submitting your awesome Food Chain images of a Tarantula Hawk securing a meal for her progeny.

Tarantula hawks swarming
I stumbled across your website while trying to research an odd event – swarming tarantula hawks (red and black winged). There are several hundred that appear to be indulging in the mesquite bloom-stalks in two trees in my yard. I’ve never seen more than 1 or 2 at a time and couldn’t find any information about nesting, hive/colony, or swarming. I’m also curious about a very large insect that looks like an oversize hornet. Measuring straight from nose to tail it’s 1 and 3/8″ long. Sorry about the fuzzy picture, I couldn’t focus close enough. thanks!
Tucson, AZ

Hi Rob,
Tarantula Hawks are solitary wasps and do not swarm. They are nectar feeding wasps and large numbers were attracted to the bounty of blooms in your yard. We have witnessed large numbers of Tarantula Hawks, but not hundreds, attracted to milkweed blooms. Your other wasp is too blurry to identify, but we suspect a Scarab Hunter in the genus Campsomeris.

Update: (06/05/2007)
Daniel: Can you please pass my contact information to Rob, the man in Tucson with all the tarantula hawk wasps? 🙂 I would love to go over and collect a few. He may have several species in his yard. Thank you SO-O-O-O much for this. Eric

Spider wasp, also from Vieques
Hi LA and D,
Here’s a spider wasp (Tachypompilus ignitus) that we also came across on Vieques last month. They are seen flying all over the island, looking in flight like hefty, slower dragonflies. No questions this time; just an image to share. Any luck with that thick-waisted wasp/bee/robber fly guy below? …we’re also including a much closer crop of the beach wasp photo that we sent
the same day.
Thanks again!
Jim and Sandy

Spider Wasp Sand Wasp

Hi Jim and Sandy,
Thanks for sending us your Spider Wasp image taken in Puerto Rico. The other wasp is a Sand Wasp, also known as a Digger Wasp, in the genus Bembix. Sand Wasps nest in shallow tubes and the female supplies the larvae with flies and other insects. Your photo shows her dragging a fly into the nest.

Corrections: The following corrections were provided by Eric Eaton (02/12/2007)
“The spider wasp from Puerto Rico is almost certainly a species of Pepsis, NOT Tachypompilus….the sand wasp is possibly not a Bembix species, either, but I don’t think you can tell conclusively from images alone… Eric” This correction would mean that the Spider Wasp is one of the Tarantula Hawks.

Hi Bugman,
I hope you can help explain what’s going on in this picture. I was on top of the mountain taking sunset photos when luckily I looked down and saw what looked like a giant wasp dragging a trantula. The wasp was walking backward. Both insects were very much alive. I thought I read that their is some flying insect that captures live prey and then pulls it underground to lay eggs on it and the young feed off the paralyzed captive. I followed this pair until they disappeared into the long grass. Could you please tell me if that is indeed a wasp and what it plans for the spider? I live in Costa Rica. Thanks,

hi Jordan,
The information you have heard is basically correct. Tarantula Hawks are large wasps in the genus Pepsis found in the Americas. The female wasp stings and parazyzes a Tarantula and drags it into a burrow where she lays an egg. The young wasp larva hatches and has a fresh food supply, eating the Tarantula alive. Thanks for the awesome photo.

tarantula hawk
Hi there.
I found your web site while trying to identify a wasp. We saw an amazing dance between a large black wasp with orange wings and a tarantula. The tarantula pounced on the wasp and tried to eat it. It does appear to be a tarantula hawk. I’m sure that you will have trouble identifying the wasp from this picture, but it does seem to resemble the tarantula hawk identified on your web site. I thought you might find the attached picture interesting. We are not sure who won this fight. It appears that the tarantula won but it’s hard to say…both bugs were still squirming when we moved on. I wish that I had been able to capture the dance on video, but unfortunately it was over by the time I got a hold of the camera.

Hi Dave,
Here is proof that if you prey on a predator, you might get eaten.

More unidentified critters
I photographed one at a local park here in Southern Cal. Hoping you could help me identify them.

Hi Rus,
You have outdone yourself with this Tarantula Hawk, Pepsis species photograph. The orange antennae are not something we are used to seeing. Curved antennae signify a female who has a powerful stinger. She uses it to paralyze tarantulas, the food for the larval wasps.