Tarantula Hawk Wasp Nest: Where Can You Find It?

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Tarantula Hawk

Tarantula Hawk Wasp is one of the largest known spider wasps. The Tarantula Hawk wasp nest is a special burrow in the ground to trap paralyzed spiders and tarantulas and lay their egg sac on them.

 

If you have never heard about the tarantula hawk, you might be confused about whether it is a majestic flying bird or a giant spider. It is neither – this is a species of spider wasps.

These are perhaps one of the biggest and only threats to Tarantula spiders in the world. One of the largest types of wasps, tarantula hawks, are found on all continents except the Antarctic.

 

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Nest

 

These wasps have metallic dark blue, iridescent bodies, bright orange wings, and six long legs. Their legs have claws at their end to carry their prey.

They are known worldwide for their excruciatingly powerful sting.

Classified as one of the biggest Hymenoptera orders of the Insecta class, the Tarantula wasps belong to the Pepsini tribe of the Pompilidae family.

Interestingly the adult female tarantula hawks can live up to 4 to 5 months while the male ones only live for a few weeks.

The females spend this time mating, then creating nests, preying on tarantulas to lay their eggs, and then leaving them in their nests to let the larvae hatch.

What Do Tarantula Hawk Nests Look Like?

The tarantula hawk nest looks like a small 2-inch hole in the ground when seen from the top, but it is much more than that when you investigate beneath the soil.

However, before knowing about its nest, it is crucial to understand why they create them in the first place.

What Do Tarantula Hawks Need Nests For?

Adult tarantula hawks are solitary insects, so they don’t have a colony to feed on and nest. So why do they build nests at all?

These wasps are parasitoids in their larval stage. They not only live on the host tarantulas, but they also feed on them.

Adult tarantula wasps hunt and paralyze tarantulas but don’t kill or eat them. Once the tarantulas are immobilized, the wasps drag them into their nest.

They then lay their egg sacs on them rather than feeding them. Once the egg hatches in 3 to 5 days, the larva eats the still-alive spider to grow.

So, coming back to the main question, these wasps create their nests for three purposes:

  • To trap the tarantulas along with their larvae, making it easy for their young to feed.
  • To keep their larvae safe from predators:
  • To provide them a safe space where they could pupate and overwinter, coming out as adult wasps in the summer and spring.

 

Tarantula Hawk

 

What Do The Nests Look Like?

Tarantula hawks might make their own nests or else repurpose the existing nest of rodents or other digger wasps. Natural rock crevices are also a viable choice.

In either case, the opening of these nests is one to two inches in the ground.

These wasps can grow anywhere between one and a half to two inches in size, so that is why the nest hole is not much bigger than this.

They dig about 11 inches inside the ground and then branch out the nest into several smaller chambers. These chambers are each meant for one egg and the tarantula it is laid on.

Sometimes, two female wasps might share the same nest. However, the chambers are always unique and only meant for a single egg.

Once the nest is done, the female wasp performs a small dance, hopping around the burrow to identify all of its contours so that she can find it again later on.

Here’s a video explaining the whole process.

https://youtu.be/zfFbVwnz-_I

Filling Up The Nest

After this, she starts scouting for tarantulas to lay her eggs. Each spider is the host for only one egg.

They meticulously drag each spider into their nest, lay their egg, and then go out searching for another one until all the eggs are laid.

Each time she brings a new spider, the female wasp piles some loose debris or soil on the burrow’s opening to cover it and hide it from predators.

When she comes the next time, she first goes and checks her nest before carrying the new spider inside.

How To Get Rid of Tarantula Hawk Nests

Though the tarantula wasps rarely attack humans, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Since their sting is one of the most excruciating torture, it is best to be well protected before going on a hunting spree to look for the wasp nest.

Wear thick fabric clothing with gloves, face shields, and mufflers are a must alongside traditional hunting tools.

Moreover, the wasps are inactive and often in their nest at night, making it the ideal time to launch the attack.

 

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Nest

 

Spraying Insecticide

While crushing them using metallic poles and tools may seem easy, it can only work if the egg has not hatched and the wasp is alone. Hence, it is best to use a more effective way to be safer.

Carbaryl-based insecticide powders are the most effective choices to kill Hawk wasps.

Put a little water around the nest to make the soil slightly moist. Next, pour the insecticide dust copiously all around the area.

Ensure that the soil is pressed down and seals the burrows. This will prevent the wasps from flying away before the insecticide begins to affect them.

To be sure, a little fuel can be added in and around the burrow and ignited immediately. The fume knocks the wasps unconscious, thus preventing them from escaping before it’s too late.

Dusting Resmethrin directly on the nests

Commonly used by professional pesticide applicators, this water-insoluble pesticide is very effective in destroying hanging nests of Hawk wasps found in crevices and hollowed-out spaces.

Resmethrin has a very distinctive chrysanthemum flower-like odor, which attracts the nectar-seeking wasps.

This pesticide effectively kills the wasp, the egg sac, and the larva In a day or two’s time.

Using Traps

You can use a DIY trap by cutting out a soda bottle and filling it with a small quantity of lime soda and dish soap in it.

The sugary scent of the soda draws the wasps to the bottle while the thick dish soap traps and kills them.

 

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Nest

 

Using natural predators to hunt the wasps

Roadrunners and bullfrogs are the rare predators that can effectively kill Tarantula wasps. However, as we mentioned earlier, both are hard to find.

Preventing Tarantula Hawk Wasps from breeding

Prevention is better than cure, so follow these steps to make sure that

  • Check clearings and bald patches for burrows during landscaping.
  • Plant grass on such bald patches so that they don’t make their nests.
  • Repair leaking faucets and pipes outdoors to prevent the breeding of spiders. Spiders like moist and dingy areas, and their presence attracts these wasps.

Bug Control Recommendation Tool

What type of pest are you dealing with?

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Do you require child/pet/garden safe treatments (organic)?

Are you willing to monitor and maintain the treatment yourself?


Frequently Asked Questions

Where do Tarantula hawk wasps nest

Tarantula hawks are known for creating burrows in the ground or hanging burrows in crevices and creeks as nests.
These nests have a one to two-inch opening, and the wasp often covers them with loose soil or debris. They prefer patches of soil that is sandy and do not have vegetation on it.
However, it is not uncommon to see these predatory wasps capture and occupy burrows of other insects and spiders.

How do you get rid of a tarantula hawk wasp?

Tarantula hawks are solitary wasps that can be killed manually using swatting tools. If you have their natural predators like bullfrogs and roadrunner birds around, they might also do the job.
To finish off the nests and the larva or egg sac, you can use various carbaryl-based insecticide powders or Resmethrin dust.

Where does a tarantula hawk lay its eggs?

Tarantula hawks are parasitoid wasps. They hunt and paralyze giant meaty spiders such as tarantulas to lays their egg sac on them.
The spider then leaves it inside her nest for a few days until the eggs hatch and begin to feed on the still-alive spider.

Are Tarantula hawk wasps poisonous?

Tarantula hawks have venomous stingers that can cause excruciating pain. The venom contains alpha and beta pompildotoxins.
However, there is no evidence that the wasp’s body has any surface irritants or poisons, nor are they known to have any organs to bite.

Wrap Up

Even though tarantula hawks are an effective predator for spiders in your garden, having their nest around can be hazardous. If disturbed, they can deliver an excruciatingly painful sting.

While the pain can be manageable for adults, it can be very agonizing for children and pets. Hence, please use the methods we shared above to remove their nests from your yard or garden.

Thank you for reading!

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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Tags: Tarantula Hawks

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7 Comments. Leave new

  • They are all over San Diego especially in Capparal.

    Reply
  • First time I saw one in New Mexico. Out here they get to be about 2 to 3 inches long. Lived in Cali most of my life never saw one. Now I know to avoid them YICKS !

    Reply
  • We get them through the Comstock here in northern Nevada. There is a tarantula migration that moves through so we also get a good swarm of these not-so-little devils (about 3″ long). They paralyze the tarantula with their poison, lay eggs in its abdomen & when the eggs hatch they have a living host to devour from the inside out. Pretty wicked stuff! Beautiful, fascinating creatures.

    Reply
  • Actually, while it is true that tarantula hawk wasps have the second-most painful sting of any insect (losing only to the bullet ant), they’re incredibly docile; I’ve actually handled them on multiple occasions with zero stings thus far. They have to perceive that their life is in danger before they’ll sting. (That being said, I still wouldn’t recommend handling it! But, you know, don’t necessarily feel the need to run away from them if you happen to see them.)

    Reply
  • I just found one in my dogs pool. I have it in a bug jar but don’t know what to do with it. Any ideas how or where to let it go?

    Reply
  • Just spotted one of these near my home at 3400 feet in Northwest Los Angeles County in the Antelope Valley region. I have yet to see a tarantula but I have to assume they are nearby given that this wasp was present.

    It flies like a dragonfly but moves in that jittery wasp-like fashion. The one I saw had neon-red/orange wings.

    I have read other comments elsewhere on this site about Tarantula Hawks and curious children as young as four trying to check it out! People, it moves like a wasp — it IS a wasp — and per Wikipedia the stinger is 7mm long, which would make it bigger than a 1 carat diamond (a 1 carat diamond ranges from ~6-6.5mm). All of which means you should keep a SAFE DISTANCE from this wasp.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the good advice. Tarantula Hawks are not aggressive, but a female will sting to protect herself.

      Reply

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