TARANTULA HAWK WASP WITH ITS PREY
Tarantula hawk wasps are so named because they utilize live tarantulas as food for their growing young. Adult tarantula hawks are not carnivorous, but drink nectar just as honey bees do. But when a female tarantula hawk is ready to lay an egg, she must find a tarantula, sting it (with one of the most potent stings of any North American insect) and drag the paralyzed spider to its burrow, as shown in this photograph. The wasp will then lay a single egg on the spider, which will soon hatch into a maggot-like larva. The larva will feed on the still-living, but paralyzed tarantula for about a month. The adult wasp will emerge from the burrow the following season. Tarantula hawks may look intimidating, but are generally mild-mannered towards humans. Nonetheless, one should never attempt to pick up or molest a tarantula hawk as the sting is extraordinarily painful!
Tarantula hawks of a variety of species can be found almost anywhere in San Diego County, from the coastal plain to the foothills to the mountains to the desert. They are widespread throughout the San Dieguito River Park. Their only requirements are flowers for the adults to feed at and tarantulas for the young to feed on.
Text and Photo by Robyn Waayers. Robyn has been a resident of San Diego County since 1977, and is a biology instructor at
Palomar, Miramar and Southwestern Colleges, and is also a freelance nature
photographer. Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical info for tarantula hawk photo: Taken with a Minolta X-700 SLR camera, with a flash unit on a bracket. Sigma 35-70 mm zoom lens plus one extension tube. Between f16 and f22. Film: Fujichrome Velvia
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