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Physical Setting
Climate
Adaptations
Tucson Plants
Tucson Animals
External Resources

AnimalsVenomous AnimalsArthropodsFishAmphibiansReptilesBirdsMammals

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Tarantula Hawk (Wasp) (Pepsis and Hemipepsis spp)

tarantula hawkDESCRIPTION: L=up to 2" (50mm). Overall irridescent blue-black, with bright orange, red, or irridescent black wings.
NATURAL HISTORY: Adults feed on nectar and pollen, but larvae feed on tarantulas. After mating, females search the ground for tarantulas or occupied tarantula burrows. Once a burrow is found, they coax the tarantula into coming out by vibrating the tarantula's silk webbing at the entrance to its burrow like a prey item would vibrate the webbing. When the tarantula comes out, the female stings the tarantula, paralyzing it. The female then has to drag the tarantula to a burrow the wasp has dug. After stuffing the tarantula into the burrow, the female lays one egg on the tarantula, exits, and fills in the burrow. When the larval wasp hatches, it begins feeding on the still-paralyzed tarantula, beginning first with the non-essential organs. After about 30 days, the wasp larva has finally consumed most of the tarantula (which now dies), and the larva pupates and eventually metamorphoses into an adult wasp.

Warning: tarantula hawks are aposematically-colored for a reason -- they give the most painful sting of any insect in the U.S. or Mexico. However, they are not aggressive, and you usually need to handle the wasp to get stung.


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