Tarantula Hawk Wasp

Characteristics: Blackish-blue body; orange or dark brown wings.

Habits:

  • Stings and paralyzes tarantulas and then feed to larvae.
  • Usually not aggressive, but sting documented as most painful of any insect.
  • Although sting is quite painful, the effect only lasts a few minutes.

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Overview

The Tarantula hawk wasp (THW) is a solitary wasp and one of the largest of its species. Found in the deserts of the southwest United States, these wasps can exceed 1.5”. Tarantula hawk wasps possess a powerful sting, which it uses to subdue its tarantula spider prey. These wasps are usually not aggressive, but the sting has been documented among the most painful of any insect (Schmidt 2004).

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Habitat

The tarantula hawk wasp is found in a variety of desert habitats such as shrublands, grasslands, and arroyos. They are often seen around flowers or running across the ground. Although ferocious-looking, these wasps are not aggressive or prone to stinging. THW’s tend to live alone and many do not build nests at all. Instead, they burrow into the soil or use natural cavities or burrows of other animals and insects. Most hunting occurs at dusk, and adults will spend the day feeding on and around flowers. The larvae of the THW feeds on tarantulas that the female has paralyzed and provided.

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Behavior – Threats – Dangers

The sting of the tarantula hawk wasp is known as the most painful sting in the entire world. Luckily, if one is stung by this wasp, the pain only lasts a few minutes and their venom is harmless to humans. Males do not have stingers, but females do, and will not sting unless provoked. If one spots a tarantula hawk wasp on their property, it is vital to just leave it alone.

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Prevention

To prevent being stung by a tarantula hawk wasp, many pest professionals recommend that homeowners simply leave them alone and take the following preventative measures: Seal all cracks, crevices, and gaps on the exterior of homes and buildings. Make sure doors and windows are well-fitted and screens are in good repair. When eating or drinking outside, check food and beverage containers before touching to ensure no wasps have been attracted to them or have landed on the food. When a tarantula hawk wasp is encountered, do not make sudden rapid movements, but softly, quietly leave the area until it is gone.