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Enormous Hawk Wasp Carries Off Huntsman Spider For Feast In Australia

An enormous tarantula hawk wasp carried off a huntsman spider twice its size in Australia. And someone was actually close enough to take a picture! They posted it to Reddit and it went viral.

Tarantula Hawk Wasp In Australia

The spider wasp is found on every continent except for Europe and Antarctica. They commonly live in the southwest deserts in the United States and all across Australia. Spider wasps do not build colonies and they are not aggressive. The males feed on nectar whereas the females prey on spiders to feed their larvae. Female spider wasps are parasitic and use the spiders as a host for their larvae. (1)

A female spider first digs a burrow in the ground using its long spines on the front of its legs, then it flies around a tree looking for a spider. Some types of wasps have scales that allow them to walk on a spiderweb and launch a surprise attack on the spider. The wasp stings the spider and paralyzes it, and then carries it off to its burrow. The spider is usually twice the wasp’s size and heavier than its own body. Some wasps will bite of the spider’s legs to make it easier to handle. (1)

Once she has the spider in her burrow, she uses it as a host and lays her eggs inside it. Then she seals off the burrow. The larvae hatch and feed on the spider. Some wasps don’t bother to dig a burrow but instead leave the spider where it is and lay larvae inside it. Some wasps also steal already paralyzed spiders from other wasps and use it for their own larvae. Their venom only paralyzes the spider, and they leave it alive for the larvae to feed on. The larvae will feed on it for weeks and will avoid the vital organs so that it will stay alive until the larvae pupate into an adult wasp. (1, 2)

The Sting of the Tarantula Hawk Wasp

The tarantula hawk wasps are large insects, measuring up to 2 inches long. They have a blue iridescent body, bright orange wings, and long legs. The males do not have stingers, but the females have one that is 1/4 inch long. Males have straight antennae while females have curly antennae. They do not sting unless provoked, but the sting is said to be the second most painful sting of any insect. (2)

Dr. Justin Schmidt, who is an entomologist and been stung many times, created the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. He says the tarantula hawk is a level 4 sting and only comparable to that of a bullet ant.

He told the BBC, “The pain is so immediate and intense that it shuts down all illusions of life as normal. Imagine sticking a finger in a 240-volt electrical socket. Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has just been dropped into your bubble bath.” (3)

No One Is Surprised It’s Australia

The original photo drew a lot of attention, but there was one theme in the comments: no one was surprised the insect was in Australia. And most of them freaked out about its size. One user even wrote, “this is why I live where the air hurts my face.” (4)

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