It's commonplace in the United States to call exterminators for bothersome insects. Ants, mosquitos, flys, and hornets can all wreak havoc on households, and the pest control industry has a plethora of at-home ways to combat these intruders. However, how does a homeowner handle insects on the larger side of the spectrum? The tarantula hawk, despite having a confusing name, is one of the largest insects in the United States. Sitting at a staggering two inches, this wasp can take down almost any insect, and even some small mammals. Native to the areas surrounding the Grand Canyon, this large wasp can be identified with its iridescent blue exoskeleton and vibrant orange wings. Not only are they incredibly large, but the tarantula hawk gets its name from the fact that it hunts tarantulas for food.

Behavior of the tarantula hawk

The behavior of the tarantula hawk is quite unique. Instead of the fertilization of the egg determining the fruition of the larvae, the gender of a tarantula hawk is determined on whether or not the egg is fertilized. If the egg isn't fertilized, then the emerging insect is male. If the egg is fertilized, the emerging insect is female.

Females, in fact, are the hunters of the tarantula hawks. While most adults only feed on flowers, their larvae are the ones that need the protein from tarantulas. The females lay their eggs inside the abdomen of the paralyzed tarantula spider, and the larvae will continue to consume it as it emerges from its egg. The larvae even avoid the vital organs of the spider to keep it living until it can pupate into an adult tarantula hawk.

Are tarantula hawks scary?

Male tarantula hawks

Similar to the behavior of lions, male tarantula hawks will display a kind of behavior called "hill-topping", in which they will sit atop small hills waiting for females to walk by to reproduce. Male tarantula hawks will also not spend any time hunting, but instead feed on flowers and the nectar of some trees. Some tarantula hawks have exhibited a peculiar behavior in which their flight is impaired if they consume large amounts of fermented fruits.

Every Continentin the world aside from the Arctic

Tarantula hawks are found on almost every continent in the world aside from the Arctic. However, these terrifying insects do not go without a natural predator. Roadrunners, a species of fast-running cockatoo bird, are one of the only animals that risk the sting of a tarantula hawk to make it its prey. This is mainly due to the sheer size of the tarantula hawk's stinger. The stinger alone on a tarantula hawk is 7 millimeters. For comparison, the full size of an adult hornet is 12 millimeters, and full size of an adult housefly is 8 millimeters. However, neither the male nor female tarantula hawks are very aggressive, and will not sting unless provoked. A tarantula hawk is more likely to leave you alone than to attack you.

Tarantula Hawks Are Not to Be Played With

The sting of a tarantula hawk is one of the worst to be described by humans. Although not fatal, the sting of a tarantula hawk can cause incredible pain for a human. To an insect of similar or lesser size, the sting is paralyzing and deadly. It is reported that the pain from a tarantula hawk sting can last up to five minutes and that the only insect with a more painful sting is none other than the bullet ant.