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.