Friday, July 24, 2009

Tarantula Hawks

BG here: When we did our blog on horehound plants and the nasty burrs they produce, we mentioned Tarantula Hawks. We had a few people that asked us what they are, so we decided to write this blog to let you know about them. I talked with Mom about it and she gave me a lot of interesting info to pass on.

We get tons of these huge wasps around here all summer long! Whenever you water anything, a bunch of them will show up, and they drown all the time in our doggy swimming pool and in the horse water barrels. Here are a bunch on the roof of the grain room.

My grandma, Mist, was very allergic to them. She bit one when she was only about a year old and Mom noticed about 5-10 minutes later, that she was rubbing all over the ground and when she looked closely at her, she found that she was breaking out in hives all over her belly, and probably all over the rest of her body and her face was getting very swollen. The vet she called, told her to give her benadryl as soon as possible, 25 mg. per 15 lbs., and repeat every 4-6 hours if symptoms returned. That was about 2 pills for Mist, and the swelling went down after about 10-15 minutes. Mom had to repeat that for about 24 hours every 6 hours. Grandma Mist got over it, but she stayed away from those wasps after that.

So far, Auntie Sadie has a tendency to chase them whenever she sees them. I guess she isn’t allergic because I know she’s caught them several times and spits them out real quick, shaking her head. I tend to leave them alone unless they fly right beside me.

Mom told us that a tarantula hawk is a wasp that hunts tarantulas to feed its babies. They are some the biggest wasps around and can grow up to 2 inches long. They are kind of pretty because they have a shiny, almost blue-black body, and dark, red-orange wings. They have long legs, with hooked claws on the ends for grabbing and fighting with the big spiders.

Wikipedia says that “the stinger of a female tarantula hawk can be up to 1/3 inch (7 mm) long, and delivers a sting which is rated among the most painful in the insect world.” I know they hurt like the dickens!!!!

During the fall around here, usually October, we will see the big tarantulas walking all over the place… sometimes, several in one day on the roads. (The one in this picture was found on the wall by the door of our back patio.) That is when the male tarantulas are out looking for a mate. They don’t eat when they are doing this and get really skinny, so the tarantula hawks would rather find a fat old female, and will look for them in their burrows, grab ‘em, and sting them to paralyze them.

They take the spider to their nest and lay an egg IN the spider, and then cover the hole. The baby, when it hatches, sucks the juices of the spider and then eats it while it is still alive, from the inside out… Lovely, huh! When they are grown, they come out of the husk of the spider and fly away.

We found out from Wikipedia that one of the only things that will eat them are those mean, ugly Road Runner Birds we get around here. The wasps will also, get themselves drunk on fermented fruit sometimes… so drunk that they can’t even fly for a while! They must be a pretty thirsty bug to do that and to drown themselves, by the bunches, in whatever water they can find.

I know that when our water is running and Mom goes out to bathe the horses or us, she usually will spray down an area away from where ever she is going to bathe us first, to draw the wasps there, so they aren’t flying all around us as she works.


Meg said...

Very interesting. I didn't know such a thing existed. One thing I know....if I ever saw a tarantula, I would move. FAR away.

Twix said...

Thanks for the explanation. Like Meg, I had no idea there was such a thing and I would not be staying where there were such big spiders. My Momma would be freaking out on a regular basis...she was bit by a poisonous spider when she was little and doesn't do well with little spiders.
Love and hugs,

Angela said...

I don't think I would ever go outside if we had those here in West Virginia! lol I know my kids wouldn't want to be out either! I just can't imagine.... I've never seen a roadrunner before, well, I've seen the Roadrunner on Bugs Bunny! hehehe I think I would do everything I could to encourage that bird to my yard to eat those nasty wasps!

Have a Great Weekend and stay away from those things!


^..^Corgidogmama said...

ughhhh!!!! too much nature for me!
You have some strange things out there in Californy!

Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom said...

Furry khool!

Tank woo fur sharing all those khritters!

PeeEssWoo: Just WAIT until woo see my SUNDAY SHARING post! Khome on by my khorner after 12mn EDT!

chicamom85 said...

My Mom is pretty freaked out right now, I must tell you. I don't know if it is the Tarantula Hawk or the actual Tarantula, but we won't be visiting the area you live in ,this fall anyway. Please be careful of those things. I can't stand to think of my friends being stung with those.

licks and sniffs, Sasha

a corgi said...

thanks for this info; I learned a lot of new things today; wow! I hope we never have a tarantula that big in our area! we do have lots of road runners and although they aren't my favorite in looks, I know they sometimes hunt/get snakes so that makes me happy :)

hope you are staying cool.....


Alicia said...

Eww!! I'm getting itchy now!! LOL!

If you check out my July 11th post, you will see Mocha in the picture!!!

ClassyChassy said...

So freaky! Glad we don't have them in Michigan! Guess I would rather have the cold winters and storms, than to have things like those wasps and SPIDEYS! UGHKIE!

Martha Basset said...

Well we had quite a few beasties taking refuge in our house on wheels but thankfully no tarantulas!
We have come home for a few days as two soggy bassets are not great - probably no better than soggy corgis!
Martha & Bailey xxx

Mango said...

Oh yuck, yuck, yuck! Momma could hardly even look at those pictures. She is not a fan of the large bugs that appear in warmer places. I guess we will need to stay where the ground freezes.


Kritter Keeper said...

wow, that is an awesome post! i love learning about nature...never heard or have seen those wasps. thank you for the photos! but i must admit those tarantula's scare me! do they get near the horses or dogs? total yuck!