The Tarantula Hawk begins its life by burrowing through the innards of large tarantulas. Delicious.
There are some animals which bring a feeling of ease to mind, like ducklings or koala bears. Then there are are other animals that instil fear, like tarantulas and hawks, so you can imagine the horror that comes when you combine the two.
For those of you who thought that arachnids were the worst thing in existence in the natural world, prepare to change your mind. The Tarantula Hawk, from the family Pompilidae (meaning spider wasp), quite literally eats tarantulas for breakfast. Well, the really, really big ones anyway.
Measuring around 5cm long it’s one of the largest wasps in existence and also one of the most vibrant, using its vivid colouring as a method of aposetamism, which means warning predators of your deadly potential with bright and alarming colours. It also has a terrifying stinger which can be up to 7mm long, which you might think doesn’t sound that impressive but wait until you see it to scale.
The true horror of the Tarantula Hawk lies in it’s larval stage. Adult wasps lay a singular egg on the back of a tarantula, covering the egg so it is encapsulated on the tarantula’s back. Once the larvae develops it burrows inside the tarantula, eating away at the non-vital organs until eventually bursting out of the exoskeleton to go on and inflict the same fate on another tarantula.
An entomologist name Justin Schmidt kindly went to the trouble of getting stung by a vast majority of the world’s most painful hymenoptera, and at current the Tarantula Wasp earns itself a score of 4, the highest score currently on the scale. Schmidt described the pain as:
‘Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair dryer has just been dropped into your bubble bath’
the severity of the sting is said to be unbearably intense and instantaneous, but has come second when compared to the Bullet Ant as the attack doesn’t last as long, with the pain subsiding within 3-4 minutes.
They can be found in India, Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa and the Americas. Given the severity of the sting for even large mammals, the Tarantula Hawk has few predators but are predated on by the Roadrunner, a fast-running ground cuckoo. Having once seen a Tarantula Hawk resting on a leaf in the Amazon Rainforest, I can confirm that this is not an insect you have any intention of getting close to.
Have you ever seen Zombie Fungus? Click here to find out more about this head-exploding ant-killer.
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