TARANTULA HAWK WASP - ©Gene Hanson
Tarantula hawks get their name because the females hunt Tarantulas (Family Theraphosidae), huge, hole-dwelling spiders that are common here in the desert. Once a female tarantula hawk finds a tarantula, she will then attack the spider and sting it. The tarantula hawk’s powerful venom paralyzes the tarantula, and the wasp then drags the spider back into its hole.
The tarantula hawk then lays an egg on the still living, but paralyzed tarantula, and she then seals up the spider hole and departs in search of another victim. Once the egg hatches, the larva will feed on the still paralyzed tarantula, eventually killing it.
For the most part however, tarantula wasps are “nectarivorous”. The consumption of fermented fruit sometimes intoxicates them to the point that flight becomes difficult.
While the wasps tend to be most active in daytime summer months, they tend to avoid the very highest temperatures.
The male tarantula hawk does not hunt; instead, it feeds off the flowers of milkweeds, western soapberry trees, or mesquite trees. The male tarantula hawk has a behavior called hill-topping, where he sits atop tall plants and watches for females that are ready to reproduce.