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The Tarantula hawk is a type of spider wasp which hunts tarantulas as food for its larvae. The Tarantula hawk is any type of spider wasp which is in the genera Pepsis and Hemipepsis in the family Pompilidae (spider wasps).
Most species of Tarantula hawks are around 5 cm (2 inches) long, making it the largest type of wasp. They usually have a blue-black body and reddish-orange wings, but some have black wings. The color on their wings tells predators that they are dangerous (aposematism). They have long legs which have hooked claws that are used for grabbing their prey. The sting of a female Tarantula hawk can be as long as 7 mm long; the stinger is said to be the second most painful insect sting in the world.
When a female Tarantula hawk finds a tarantula it stings and paralyzes the tarantula. Then the wasp drags the tarantula to her burrow or takes it to a specially made nest, where it lays a single egg on the tarantula's abdomen. Once the egg hatches the larva makes a hole in the tarantula's abdomen. It then crawls into the tarantula and feeds on the insides. After a few weeks the larva pupates. After a while the wasp turns into an adult and comes out of the tarantula's abdomen. Tarantula hawks are also nectarivores, meaning they eat the nectar of flowers. Unlike the females, males do not hunt for tarantulas. Instead they feed on the nectar of flowers of milkweeds, western soapberry trees, or mesquite trees, which the females also feed on.
Where they live
Tarantula hawks are found in India, southeast Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas. In the Americas they can be found as far north as Salt Lake City, Utah in the U.S.A to as far south as Argentina in South America. 250 species are found in South America, while many other species have been found in deserts of southwestern U.S.A.
The sting of this wasp is said to be the most painful insect sting in the world, but the pain only lasts for a few minutes. Not many people have been stung by a Tarantula hawk but people who have say that it is so painful that they can not think of doing anything but scream. Not many animals eat them, but one that can is the roadrunner. Many animals avoid Tarantula hawks because of their sting, so some insects mimic their looks. Many types of wasps, bees, flies, moths and beetles mimic the looks of the Tarantula hawk.