Look! For once it’s not a bee…

April 27, 2010 @ 3:16 pm | Filed under: ,

But what the heck IS it??

It flew over the fence, stopped for a brief sip, and zoomed off again. In this picture it has a kind of preying mantis shape, doesn’t it? Except for those copper-colored wings. Could those curly antennae be any cuter?

UPDATE: Dude!!! Tracy identified this beastie in the comments. It seems we have ourselves a (gulp) tarantula hawk wasp.

Tarantula hawk wasps are so named because they utilize live tarantulas as food for their growing young. Adult tarantula hawks are not carnivorous, but drink nectar just as honey bees do. But when a female tarantula hawk is ready to lay an egg, she must find a tarantula, sting it (with one of the most potent stings of any North American insect) and drag the paralyzed spider to its burrow, as shown in this photograph. The wasp will then lay a single egg on the spider, which will soon hatch into a maggot-like larva. The larva will feed on the still-living, but paralyzed tarantula for about a month. The adult wasp will emerge from the burrow the following season. Tarantula hawks may look intimidating, but are generally mild-mannered towards humans. Nonetheless, one should never attempt to pick up or molest a tarantula hawk as the sting is extraordinarily painful!

From the San Dieguito River Park website; thanks for that very helpful link, Tracy!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shudder.

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9 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Jennifer says:

    I don’t know what it is, but I was wondering (since we’re talking insects) what’s the butterfly situation at your place? I’ve seen two monarchs this spring. Just two. That’s the whole city too, not just my garden. Usually we have days where they cluster in the garden but that hasn’t happened this year. 🙁

  2. Tracy says:

    Well, it may not be a bee, but it is a close relative. I believe it is a tarantula hawk. Check out this site for more info–http://www.sdrp.org/resources/Ecology/Robyn%20Waayer/TARANTULA.htm

  3. Kimberlee says:

    Sweetie, if Tracy is correct and you apparently have a lady with the curly antennae, you don’t want to get stung by it! Check out the wiki article which says: ‘Commenting on his own experience, one researcher described the pain as “…immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream.”‘ Yikes!

  4. Melissa Wiley says:

    Jiminy crickets. I don’t know what freaks me out more: the thought of how close I was to that thing while taking its picture, or the fact that I live close enough to TARANTULAS in the wild for this thing to be in my backyard!

    (We’re not far from desert, and I know there are tarantulas out there, but, well, some things you just don’t let yourself think about too intently…)

    Well, Mrs. Tarantula Hawk flew on her merry way back over the fence, and I can’t say I’m sorry to see her go!

    (Glad I got a photo, though, before knowledge of her excrutiating sting paralyzed the intrepid nature photographer in me!)

  5. KC says:

    It’s like knowing about all the scorpions around here. Yuck!

    The sting is scary though. That’s a great picture.

  6. Sara says:

    Like alien babies incubating inside the living host (remember Aliens?)!! Gross!

  7. Joann says:

    Awww, c’mon, it’s not like there was a diamond back rattler wrapped around your water spigot masquerading as your hose…

  8. Helen says:

    Dear Melisa – your photos are AWESOME!
    I love carpenter bee in flight – it is REALLY HARD to catch such a moment, you did great!
    As of this red Tarantula Hawk Wasp – I never was lucky to see it live … but you are!
    I found this site for you – there are many great galleries on this site, including butterflies for Jane:


  9. Melissa Wiley says:

    Helen, how lovely to hear from you! Thank you for your kind remarks and the link. 🙂

    Sara, we have had some up-close-and-ewwww-able experience with the Aliens-like offspring of one of those wasps that lays eggs inside live caterpillars. The idea makes my skin crawl. Bringing tarantulas into that grisly equation is all the more shudder-inducing, eh?

    Joann, re your water hose snake–YIKES! You didn’t grab it, did you? Tell me you didn’t grab it.

    I once almost stepped on a rattler, but it was a chilly early morning on the prairie and he was too cold to move. This was fortunate, because I did not notice him (directly on the spot where I was about to step) until AFTER I had herded a tour-group of kindergarteners across that patch of ground into the back of a wagon. Sheesh!