Tarantula hawk wasps are an impressive insect species to encounter. After the bullet ant, they define the second highest level of pain from an insect sting on the Schmidt pain index.
Tarantula hawk wasps have large hooked feet to overpower their tarantula prey. Though they don’t eat the tarantula themselves, they instead capture the prey for their larvae. They paralyse the tarantula with their fearsome sting, carry it back to a burrow, and lay an egg inside the still living tarantula.
When the egg hatches, the larvae begin consuming the tarantula from the inside. The larvae are careful to avoid vital organs in order to keep the spider alive (fresh) for as long as possible. Despite their excellent hunting ability, tarantula hawk wasp adults are strictly nectar feeders.
Tarantula Hawk Wasp Sting – Personal Experience
While talking to the owner of the Tahuayo Lodge about a recent encounter, I discovered that he had been stung by both the bullet ant (highest level of pain) and the tarantula hawk wasp. He agrees with Schmidt about the pain description: “Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.”
I found one of these in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve and was highly impressed by its size. While gently holding it still with the side of a machete to get better photos, I could hear the body grinding against the knife as if the wasp itself was made of steel. Truly an amazing insect.