Did you recently find a tarantula hawk nest on your property, or perhaps saw one or two of them buzzing around your flower garden? Here’s how to get rid of tarantula hawks and how to find out if they are nesting on your property.
A tarantula hawk is a spider wasp that preys on tarantulas twice its size!
The unique thing about these solitary wasps is that even though they look deadly, they are not aggressive to humans unless provoked.
However, their powerful stings are the second most painful ones in the world.
Therefore, if you have kids or pets at home or are allergic to wasp stings, it is important to know how to get rid of this species of wasps.
What Do They Look Like?
Tarantula hawks have metallic blue-black bodies and brightly colored wings. Their orange wings are a warning sign to others about their painful sting (known as aposematism).
Some of them may have black wings with blue dots with a distinct veining pattern.
They have long legs with hooked claws at the bottom, which they use to drag their considerably bigger prey.
With their 1.5-inch long bodies, tarantula hawks are the largest wasps in the United States.
The male wasp has straight antennae, while female wasps have curled ones.
As mentioned, they are non-social wasps that do not nest or hunt in colonies and generally prefer to fly closer to the ground.
They live during the summer months and die off in about one or two months.
Signs The Your Property is Hosting Tarantula Hawks
Tarantula Hawks are usually found in the warm areas of Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and the southwestern desert areas of the United States.
Though there is a lower chance for people in the US to come across them, one should know where to find them to avoid their painful sting.
These wasps are diggers; they make their nests by burrowing deep inside the ground. They create these nests as home to their eggs and, subsequently, the larvae.
Tarantula Hawk wasps like to make nests on bald patches of the ground where there is no grass and ample sunlight hitting the ground directly. This helps keep the larvae warm during winters.
Their nests usually have 1-2 inch wide openings that look like small holes in the ground. If you see some holes of this type, it is likely that you are hosting a digger wasp.
Many people think that since tarantula hawks sting tarantulas, they might eat them as well – this is far from the truth.
Tarantula hawk larvae are parasitic, and the adults use the paralyzed spider as a host for these larvae.
For themselves, they only like nectar, honeydew, and juice from berries and fruits. Their favorite is generally the nectar from soapberry trees and milkweeds.
If you have any of these plants in your garden, a tarantula wasp might show up.
However, they still need tarantulas for their larvae, so you won’t find them in areas that do not have tarantulas.
Removing Tarantula Hawk Wasps From Your Garden Or Yard
Even though these spider wasps are not aggressive, it is better to be safe than sorry. Moreover, if you have kids at home, they might not know that wasps are dangerous.
So, keeping your home free from tarantula hawk wasps is important. We have discussed some sure-shot ways to eliminate them in the section below.
Start by Putting on Protective Clothing
Prevention is better than cure, so it is best to wear clothes with thick fabric, boots, gloves, a cap, a muffler, or a mask to cover up your entire body.
The protective clothing will ensure your safety even if the adult wasps try to bite you.
Use Insecticide Powder
You can buy insecticide powder from the market and directly attack underground wasp nests to get rid of them.
However, before you do this, you should cover the entryway of the nest with moist soil to stop the wasps from escaping their nests.
Moreover, always do this during the night, as the wasps are inactive after sunset.
Once you use the powder, wait a day or two for the wasps to die or dig another nest.
You can also pour some form of fuel, for instance, gasoline, on their nests and cover them with a soft cloth.
The fumes will trap the wasps in their nest, and you can easily dig their nests out and get rid of them quickly.
Use Resmethrin on Hanging Nests
If you hang wasp nests around your home, you’d have to use a different method to get rid of them.
The first step is to locate the nests during the daytime and spray resmethrin at night.
Next, dust resmethrin and insecticide dust on the hanging nests to block the wasps’ escape.
Remember to put the insecticide dust all over the steel wool and use it to cover the nest entrance.
Once you follow the above steps, wait a day or two for the wasps to die. You can get rid of the nest on the second or third day.
DIY Traps for Them
If you want to avoid using chemicals, you can create a DIY trap for tarantula hawk wasps in your home. Here’s how to make it.
- Cut the top off a large plastic bottle
- Turn it vertically and put the vertical part in the bottle to give a funnel-like shape.
- Now, fill it with soda until it reaches halfway.
- Now, add a few drops of dish soap.
- Next, put the DIY trap near the wasps’ nests and wait for them to come out.
The sugary smell of the soda and soap will attract the wasps to come closer to the trap. Once they do, you can capture and get rid of them quickly.
Encourage Natural Predators
The best way to get rid of tarantula haw wasps is to invite natural predators to their nests.
However, tarantula wasps have few predators due to their long and painful stingers. Thus, only bullfrogs or road runners can quickly help you get rid of the tarantula hawks.
Finding a bullfrog or road runner is difficult since the former usually live near water and rarely leave their natural habitat to go to the cities.
The road runner wouldn’t venture to a city area as well. Thus, you may have to bring them on rent from a vendor to get rid of the wasps.
What Causes Tarantula Hawk Wasps?
Tarantula hawk wasps are most active in warm areas.
Secondly, you can find them where there is a population of tarantula spiders nearby since they need those to lay eggs inside their bodies.
So, if you find an active tarantula hawk wasp in and around your home, these might be the reasons.
A spider problem in your home
If you see potential spider homes in the form of long grass, yard debris, rock crevices, and untrimmed bushes, make sure to clear them off or get rid of them immediately.
If you keep your lawns and gardens trimmed and cultivated, the chances of tarantula hawk showing will be lowered since they usually prefer rocky areas and sandy trains.
If you have a wasp problem in your area, avoid sugary drinking drinks or eating sweets outside your house.
Since these wasps love sugary foods, they might enter your home attracted by its scent.
Preventing Tarantula Hawk Wasps From Coming Inside
A tarantula hawk can enter your home during hot summer days.
If you live in an area prone to a tarantula wasp’s visit, get rid of all the cracks, crevices, and gaps in your house.
During the afternoon, when the heat is at its peak, try to keep all your doors and windows shut off.
If you must step out, cover yourself with protective clothing and always wear shoes before entering the lawn or garden area.
Also, remember to trim your garden from time to time to avoid an invitation to these wasps.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are tarantula hawks attracted to?
Tarantula hawks are attracted to tarantula spiders since they are the potential hosts for their larvae.
They are also attracted to sugar products, like sweets and drinks, nectar and juice from berries and fruits.
What happens if you get bitten by a tarantula hawk wasp?
If you get bitten by a tarantula hawk wasp, you may feel excruciating pain for the next 5 to 10 minutes, after which it subsides.
You may have itchiness, red rash, or swelling in the affected area. However, if you are allergic to insect bites, you must immediately seek medical help.
Is the tarantula hawk aggressive?
Like paper wasps, tarantula hawks are usually not aggressive towards human beings, but if provoked or threatened, they can give you a painful sting.
They are, however, quite aggressive towards their prey, tarantula spiders, whom they paralyze with their venomous stingers.
Do tarantula hawks sting dogs?
Tarantula hawks might sting dogs, but due to their fur coverings, they may experience lesser pain than humans. These wasps don’t usually go around trying to sting dogs, but if provoked, they may also end up giving sting to them.
Tarantula hawks are not aggressive, and they don’t go around biting people or their pets. However, it is best to take the necessary precautions if you see them near your home.
You can use any of the methods that we talked about, or else call professionals to get rid of wasp nests. In any case, try to get rid of them quickly to avoid future stings or accidents.
Thank you for reading!
Tarantula hawk stings can be very painful. If you have kids or pets at home, we hope the tips above will help you get rid of them.
Go through some of the experiences of our readers in the emails below, you might be able to pick up another trick or two from them!
Letter 1 – Tarantula Hawks too numerous to count
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!
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.
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
Letter 2 – Tarantula Hawk found dead in a Flower Pot
Subject: Blue wasp?
Location: El Paso, TX, USA; desertic zone
January 17, 2013 12:38 am
My name is Hector, and I encountered this interesting site few days ago when people in a famous forum were discussing a video of a parasitic worm getting out of a dead spider; freaky stuff.
Anyway, upon finding this site, I come to you with a request:
Last year, my mother told me about a curious thing she found outside, in my patio. Laying dead on a flower pot, was this insect, what appear to be a wasp. A dark electric blue wasp with oxide orange wings (I’m attaching 3 photos; I apologize with its current appearance, it laid dead on the pot for 3 days before coming inside (y’know, women)).
I found it during the spring wind storm season, mid-April or so.
I’ll be very thankful if you provide with information about this specimen.
Keep up this thing you do! Thanks for the site! 😀
We want to begin by complimenting you on the excellent photographs. Since the wasp was not alive and moving, you were able to take advantage of the situation and “pose” the specimen. You have excellent focus, depth of field and clarity. The simple background and absence of shadows due to the flat lighting is very professional. This is a Tarantula Hawk, one of a group of large spider wasps that preys upon Tarantulas. Though your photos are exceptional, we prefer images of living Tarantula Hawks. Female Tarantula Hawks which possess the stingers hunt for Tarantulas and sting them to paralyze them. They then drag them to a suitable location for an underground burrow, bury the still living but paralyzed Tarantula, and lay an egg. The larva that hatches will feed upon the living but helpless Tarantula. The sting of a female Tarantula Hawk is reported to be extremely painful. Adult Tarantula Hawks are frequently found nectaring on flowers, especially milkweed.
Letter 3 – Tarantula Hawk Carnage
Subject: Wasp or Beatle?
Location: Covina California
May 21, 2015 6:35 pm
Found this in the backyard crawling into a hole, never seen one before. It’s quite interesting. It really looks like a beetle mixed with a wasp. 05-21-2015
We are afraid to ask why this Tarantula Hawk is no longer crawling into a hole. Tarantula Hawks are Spider Wasps in the family Pompilidae. We will be tagging this posting as Unnecessary Carnage.