Tuesday, August 1, 2017

the tarantula hawk wasp (beware!)

Several times recently, on one particular patch of Horsetail Milkweed, I've notice this spectacular insect, but it's always buzzed off before I could get close enough to take a picture.  Today I got close enough - an inch or so - to be able to capture it.  This may not have been a very sensible thing to do (though I was lucky - nothing bad happened) since apparently it has THE SECOND MOST PAINFUL STING IN THE ENTIRE INSECT WORLD - like an extreme, and scream-producing, electric shock.  Er - yes.  Curiously, they're not toxic - their sting has only 3% of the toxicity of that of a bee - and one's entirely o.k. again after five minutes.  No wonder that their main prey is - yes, you've guessed it from their name - tarantula spiders, which they numb, and then carry off for dinner. They are the biggest kind of wasp because they eat the biggest kind of spider.  They are also, for some reason, the state insect of New Mexico (do you know your state insect?).

If I see one tomorrow, I'm crossing the road.

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