Insect Facts: the Tarantula Hawk Wasp
As I have mentioned, the world of insects is far, far more terrifying than anything I could write. It is a brutal world where almost all of the tropes of the horror genre are visible. There are parasites and parasitic wasps that can take control of a host and cause them to do what they want - turning them into zombies. There are insects that implant eggs into a host only for the young to hatch and eat their way out- bursting out of the hose like something from a movie.
Then there is the Tarantula Hawk Wasp which you can see above. It's actually very beautiful. However, if you are a big spider, especially a tarantula, you might be hard pressed to find something more terrifying.
First, you should know that the Tarantula Hawk is found in warm climates, but this also includes places like California and Arizona. Anyplace that can have tarantulas, you can have tarantula hawk wasps. They are parasitic wasps, which means they need a living specimen to survive and the way they use them might actually give you some sympathy for the spiders.
Second, there is a nutty guy out there named Schmidt who has been letting insects from around the world actually sting him and then recording just how bad the sting is. The tarantula hawk wasp has one of the largest stingers (just look at it!) of any wasp in the world. Schmidt listed the tarantula hawk wasp sting as the second most painful sting of any insect in the world, only outpaced by the bullet ant.
Third, you are not likely to end up stung by one of these guys. They are solitary and do not build hives or nests or run around in large swarms. They avoid people as much as possible and only dummies who grab one and handle it or try to manipulate one have felt the wrath of that super painful wasp sting. So, unless you are a spider, or a masochist, you are not likely to find yourself on the wrong end of that butt sword of a stinger.
Finally - what they do to the spiders is truly horrific. Buckle up.
The tarantula hawk wasps flies around until it sees a good sized spider. The tarantula hawk itself is very large and very strong and can actually carry an entire tarantula that his bigger than itself if it has to. Once it finds a tarantula, it paralyzes it with its stinger. The poor tarantula is still alive and well, but cannot move. The wasp then drags the spider back to its burrow or nest, which is in the ground.
The diabolical tarantula hawks wasp drags the helpless spider underground and then lays eggs on its abdomen. Once it's done, the tarantula hawk wasp leaves the nest and covers the hole, burying that spider alive. It doesn't take long for the true horror to start for the tarantula.
He eggs hatch on the spider's body and the larvae immediately start burrowing into the tarantula's body. They then slowly devour the arachnid from the inside out, eating it slowly and carefully so it stays alive as it is eaten. They avoid the vital organs for as long as they can until they reach sufficient size and age they can then explode out of the tarantula's abdomen, then the burrow, and fly off to start the process all over again.
Isn't that just like nature, though? Sometimes the most beautiful things in the world are the most deadly. The color of bright red, for example, in plants often means "poison."
And all of those things you worry about and that scares us in horror novels and horror movies and we tell ourselves is just fiction - is probably alive and well in nature. It is probably very true of the insect world.
COMING FEBRUARY 23 - S.P.I.D.A.R.
The town of Whittier, Alaska is isolated and getting ready for winter. Then the body washes up on shore and the citizens find out the true meaning of terror. A terror created by man to be a weapon, which has gone out of control. A terror that walks on eight legs. A terror that has only three purposes:
Now the citizens of Whittier are fighting for their lives. Against a nightmare no one could imagine or prepare for. A nightmare that changes, adapts and wants only to destroy them.
S.P.I.D.A.R. is coming February 23, 2018, from Beacon Publishing Group in print, ebook and audiobook formats.