Tarantula Hawk Wasp
Someone asked if I could help to identify a wasp which they found in their garden. The coloring was interesting in that it was completely black except for the wings, which were red. The wasp was approximately an inch and a half long and the wasp body was approximately half an inch wide.
After searching various wasp sources I had come to the conclusion that this was probably a member of the Scoliid Wasp family, as they are found in numerous colorings, including a similar color to this wasp in question.
Having just reached this conclusion I just happened to read an article about the official State Insect of New Mexico, where the question was sent from, and realised that the State Insect matched the description perfectly. The New Mexico State Insect is the Tarantula Hawk Wasp and, as its name implies, it does actually prey on Tarantula spiders.
Here are some images from Google that show what a Tarantula Hawk Wasp looks like:
Many people have stated that they believe that the Tarantula Hawk Wasp has the most painful sting of any insect in north America, so if you see one it's best to keep your distance. The males are fiercely territorial and will defend areas which provide a good view of the surrounding area as they use these high vantage points for spotting females during mating time.
Similar to the Cicada Kller Wasp, the Tarantula Hawk stings its prey in order to paralize it and then either feeds on it immediately or carries the Tarantula back to a burrow where it lays a single egg upon the spider before sealing the incubation chamber. When the egg hatches the grub will feed off the Tarantula as its first meal.
Have you ever seen a Tarantula Hawk Wasp?
What a fascinating creature, if you have any comments please let me know and if you have any other questions which you'd like me to answer for free please send them to Ben Dash at firstname.lastname@example.org