Spider hunting or Tarantula-hawk wasp

Spider hunting or Tarantula-hawk wasp

Pepsis sp.


Tarantula-hawks are some of the largest wasps in the world. They have long stings, up to 7mm long, which are amongst the most painful of any insect. Humans who are stung only hurt for a few minutes but the tarantulas they hunt are paralysed.

Where can you see them?  In the Americas they are found from Utah in the North, down to Argentina in the South. Most of the 45 species are found in the tropical parts of the Americas in rainforests, grasslands and a number of other habitats.

What do they eat? The adults feed on the nectar of milkweeds, soapberry and mesquite trees. Adult females must also hunt for tarantulas to feed their young. Growing bodies need lots of protein. They sting the spiders on their undersides to paralyse them and then drag them to a burrow they have dug or found. They lay a single egg on the spider and then seal the burrow.  Individual females may lay between 4-26 eggs in total and require a new spider for each one. The wasp grub that hatches feeds on the paralysed tarantula, leaving the vital organs until last. The grub pupates and then emerges from its’ burrow as an adult wasp.

Why are they important? They help control the number of predatory spiders in the rainforest. Recent studies of African species of Pepsis wasps have shown that they are the main pollinator for the plants they collect nectar from. The rainforest species are likely to be pollinating rainforest plants too.

Linked media:  Tarantula-hawk wasp video