Just the word “tarantula” is enough to send any person to a fit of the creeps. The sight of its hairy, long, thick legs and large body is the stuff of horror movies, and its bite is anything but pleasant.
Tarantulas have only a few natural predators; but if there is one other insect in the animal world that can strike the same evasive effect to tarantulas as tarantulas can do to humans, then the tarantula hawk wasp is the strongest contender.
The tarantula hawk gets its name from the rather cruel and grisly manner of their procreation. “They capture and paralyze spiders, they then bring the paralyzed spider to an underground nest, lay eggs on the spider and the wasp larvae hatch and feed on the spider,” Dr. Chris Nice, a Texas State University biology professor said.
Though usually not very aggressive and are relatively docile as far as wasps go, once threatened, these 2-inch-long, black and orange things “with a sting like death” do attack. And if you think the tarantula’s bite is the stuff of nightmares, wait until you get stung by a tarantula wasp. Its pain scale is rated number 4 on American entomologist, Justin Schmidt’s Schmidt Sting Pain Index — second only to the aptly named bullet ant. If ever you get to reading the vivid descriptions of people getting bit by these things, the experience is anything short of traumatic.
Schmidt describes the sting to be “…immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations.” He even recounts the experience of one scientist who tried to grab the said wasps: “Undeterred after the first sting, he continued, receiving several more stings, until the pain was so great he lost all of them and crawled into a ditch and just bawled his eyes out.”
This July, it’s that time of the year once again, and these critters are beginning to show up in even larger numbers. Stay safe and non-intrusive. If you’re one of those people, keep your tarantula pets safe at home and please, please refrain from intentionally picking up or stepping on anything remotely resembling these black and orange stingers of death, no matter how curious you get. For safer expulsion, contact your local pest control professionals.
And if you do get bitten, the experts’ advice is simple: Just lie down and scream it all out until it’s over.