The Tarantula Hawk is a parasitic wasp that uses spiders to feed its young in a macabre scene one might expect in a horror story.
Adult Tarantula Hawks feed primarily on nectar, but females 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 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 wasp eggs. The newly hatched larvae immediately begin to feed on the living tarantula until it is consumed.
Tarantula Hawks take on many shades of black like blue-black and purple-black, but the orange wings always contrast with their dark bodies, making it easier to identify them. 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 abdomens have only 6 segments. This species of wasp is found in the American Southwest and Mexico.
Scientific Name: Pepsis species
Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 42mm to 43mm (1.64in to 1.68in)
Colors: black; blue; green; orange; red; yellow; brown
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Ant, Bee, and Wasp Anatomy
Antennae: Ants and Bees both have a pair of antennae on the head that senses their surroundings.
Head: The head contains the insect's compound eyes, antennae, and mandibles.
Thorax: Contains various vital parts such as the aorta and nervous system.
Abdomen: Contains various organs including the heart, gut, venom glands, and anus.
Legs: Ants and Bees have three pairs of legs attached to the thorax (center-body section).
NOTE: Ants, Bees and Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order because they share many similarities.