Photographer spots rare wasp with terrifying name in southern Interior garden
A photographer and nature enthusiast in Grand Forks snapped a photo of a rare wasp called a tarantula hawk in a neighbour’s garden last fall.
“A friend up the street has a fantastic garden where I’ve taken photos of flowers and insects,” said Gordon McIntosh. “She told me there was a big orange and black thing flying around.”
McIntosh located the wasp amongst a pile of European paper wasps in a flower, and took around fifty photos of it. He later researched the insect and sent photos to the B.C. Royal Museum.
“It was big, an inch long or more,” he said. “The paper wasps and tarantula wasp seemed annoyed with one another, they were kind of crashing antennas into each other. The big thing was crawling around on the leaves investigating so I took pictures of it.”
The tarantula hawk flew away and McIntosh didn’t see it again.
The museum wrote an email back to McIntosh, saying there is a tarantula wasp specimen in the museum from the Grand Forks area and the wasps range as far north as Salmon Arm.
“I did some research,” he said. “I was Googling them like crazy. I found out they are usually in Arizona. They sting tarantulas to stun them and drag them into their burrows. Then they lay an egg on it. When the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the tarantula.”
McIntosh spends a lot of time enjoying nature and has taken thousands of photos over the years, but this is the first time he has seen a tarantula hawk wasp.
“I like to look at little things,” he said. “My friends say I will take a picture of anything that doesn’t take a picture of me first.”
Tarantula hawk wasps can be found on every continent except Europe and Antarctica and live in desert scrub, rainforests, grassland, open arid or semi-arid locations and most species of the wasp are found in the southwestern United States.
The tarantula hawk wasp gets its name because it hunts tarantulas or other large spiders, which it paralyzes with its venom to use as food for its larva.
The wasps can get up to two inches long, have blue-black coloured bodies and orange or rust-coloured wings. Their stings are known to be extremely painful but otherwise harmless to humans.
The adults are solitary and feed on pollen and nectar.
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