Tarantula Hawk

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The tarantula hawk is a species of spider wasp which hunts tarantulas as food for its larvae. Up to two inches (50 mm) long with a blue-black body and bright rust-colored wings, tarantula hawks are among the largest of wasps. The coloring on their wings warns potential predators that they are dangerous. Their long legs have hooked claws for grappling with their victims. The stinger of a female tarantula hawk can be up to 1/3 inch (7 mm) long, and delivers a sting which is rated among the most painful in the insect world. During the spiders's reproductive season male tarantulas are usually emaciated from ignoring food while searching for females. The tarantula hawks thus prefer female tarantulas and seek them in their burrows. They capture, sting, and paralyze the spider, then they either drag the spider back into her own burrow or transport their prey to a specially prepared nest where a single egg is laid on the spiderís body, and the entrance is covered. The wasp larva, upon hatching, begins to suck the juices from the still-living spider. After the larva grows a bit, it plunges into the spider's body and feeds voraciously, avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep it fresh. The adult wasp emerges from the nest to continue the life cycle. Tarantula wasps are "nectarivorous". The consumption of fermented fruit sometimes intoxicates them to the point that flight becomes difficult. While the wasps tend to be most active in daytime summer months, they tend to avoid the very highest temperatures. The male tarantula hawk does not hunt; instead, it feeds off the flowers of milkweeds, western soapberry trees, or mesquite trees. The male tarantula hawk has a behavior called "hill-topping", where he sits atop tall plants and watches for females that are ready to reproduce. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]







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