Insect Identification
Insect Identification

Tarantula Hawk - (Pepsis species)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 2/6/2014

The Tarantula Hawk is a parasitic wasp that uses the spider to feed its young in a macabre scene one expects in a horror story.

Adult Tarantula Hawks feed primarily on nectar though the females will actively hunt tarantulas for more nefarious reasons. Tarantula Hawks can deliver a sting that is very painful to people, but downright paralyzing to tarantulas. Once paralyzed, the poor and helpless tarantula is brought back to the Tarantula Hawk's burrow. To add more agony to the fate of the unfortunate tarantula, it is usually buried alive (still paralyzed) with some Tarantula Hawk eggs. The newly hatched larvae will immediately begin to feed on the tarantula until it is consumed.

Male and female Tarantula Hawks vary in subtle ways. Male antennae are straight and their abdomens are segmented into 7 sections. Female antennae are curved and their abdomen has only 6 segments. Tarantula Hawks take on many shades of black, but the orange wings always contrast with their dark bodies, making it easier to identify them.

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Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Common name: Tarantula Hawk
Scientific Name: Pepsis species

  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
     Order: Hymenoptera
      Family: Pompilidae
       Genus: Pepsis
        Species: species

Adult Size (Length): 42mm to 43mm (1.65in to 1.69in)

Identifying Colors: black; blue; green; orange; red; yellow; brown

Additional Descriptors: flying, biting, stinging

North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Arizona; California; Nevada; New Mexico; Texas

* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.