An insect species that is known for inflicting one of the most painful stings of all insect species currently documented can be found here in Arizona. This species is known as the “tarantula hawk wasp,” and much like their name suggests, these insects are predators of tarantulas. Tarantula hawk wasps use their stingers to inject potent venom into tarantulas, paralyzing the hairy arachnids. Once the tarantula becomes immobile, the giant 2 inch hawk wasp literally drags its tarantula prey into its nest before placing an egg on top of the tarantula’s motionless body. The hawk wasp then seals the burrow, trapping the tarantula with the developing egg. Once the egg hatches, the wasp offspring slowly eats the tarantula alive during a period lasting several weeks, indicating that hawk wasps appreciate a fresh meal.
Luckily, tarantula hawk wasps are not interested in stinging humans, but this does not mean that the wasps cannot be provoked into stinging humans. Several nature enthusiasts and entomologists have volunteered to be stung by a hawk wasp, and while the sting is not fatal and is short lived, the pain that the stings cause can be debilitating. Coyote Peterson is one celebrity who has sustained a hawk moth sting, and entomologist Christopher Cokinos describes a hawk moth sting as feeling as though one is being shocked with a cattle prod that immediately induces extreme pain that makes screaming impossible to avoid. Officials with the Natural History Museum claim that hawk wasps are relatively gentle creatures unless they are provoked.
Tarantula hawk wasps almost never sting humans, as the wasps generally maintain a habitat within desert areas that are free of human habitats. However, for those who are determined to locate a hawk wasp within local areas, visiting areas where flowering brush is abundant is the best place to go, especially during the month of July.
Would you be willing to sustain a tarantula hawk wasp sting?