Tarantula Hawk
Credit: Public domain.

The tarantula hawk is one of the largest wasp species.

Wasp vs spider

Below I share a video showing these animals battling. If you've never felt sorry for a large spider before, this may be the first time that you ever do.

Before that however, I will share some facts about these fascinating - or unbelievably scary, depending on who you are - species.

The largest spiders on Earth

Credit: Wikimedia Commons photo by Toiyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Tarantulas are the largest spiders in the world. Where I live in Southern California, they are nearly the size of my hand. Some in other places in the world, such as South American rainforests, are even larger. There are at least nine hundred species total, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica, and on many islands as well.[1]

Where I live they are usually black or dark brown, and most species worldwide are not dangerous to humans as many believe, although they can still bite, and it won’t feel very good. I witnessed my dad get bit once. He said it hurt nearly like a bee sting. There are some species that cause more harm to humans, although none have ever been known to cause a human fatality. In other parts of the world they can be blue or other colors.[1]

I love seeing them on the occasions that I do. Many people hate them or are deathly afraid of even small and completely harmless species, but I’m not. However, I do kill black widows in my yard because of how toxic their venom is, and I have small children at home.[2]

Tarantulas in California and in many places around the world make burrows in the ground, and they’ll eat just about any small animal they can catch. In other parts of the world they may not burrow.  Some for example live in trees. They don’t only eat insects, but will try to catch mice, lizards, etc.[1]

Ordinarily tarantulas are difficult to find and stay in their burrows, although males are sometimes seen wandering around, looking for a female to mate with, especially in autumn.[1]

Tarantula hawk: Mortal enemy of the tarantula spider

Tarantula Hawk Wasp
Credit: Public domain.

Although tarantulas may be attacked by other animals such as birds, where I live there is an animal that regularly hunts them, and it is a large and fearsome wasp called the tarantula hawk. These huge wasps intentionally seek them out, kill them, and lays eggs inside the spider. When the eggs hatch, the baby wasps eat the rest of the tarantula. Just try not to visualize it too vividly.[3]

These wasps are said to have the second-most painful sting of any in the world, behind only the bullet ant of tropical Central and South America.[4] They are as seen in the photos, black with orange wings. Their black bodies are about two inches (5 cm) in length. Flying around, they look huge and you’d swear they’re even larger than that. Just the stinger is about 1/3 of an inch (almost a full centimeter) in length.[3]

Tarantula hawks actually live not just in the Americas, but in Africa, Southern Europe, Southern Asia, and Australia as well. I actually enjoy seeing them, because they rarely ever attack humans. You’d have to provoke them somehow, such as trying to grab one.[3] And if you do that, you deserve it.

Tarantula vs tarantula hawk epic battle video

I find this fascinating.