Tarantula Hawk Wasp

Actual Size: 1.5”to 1 ⅝”

Characteristics: Blackish-blue body; orange or dark brown wings.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Burrow into soil or within natural cavities/previously used burrows from other insects


  • Stings and paralyzes tarantulas, and then feed them to larvae
  • Usually not aggressive, but sting documented as the most painful of any insect
  • Often seen as solitary wasps

Tarantula Hawk Wasps in The North Bay and East Bay of California

The tarantula hawk wasp is a solitary wasp and one of the largest wasps in the nation. Found in the deserts of the southwest United States, these wasps can exceed 1.5” and even grow to be 2 inches long. Tarantula hawk wasps possess a powerful sting, which it uses to subdue its tarantula spiders. As frightening as this sounds, these wasps are not typically aggressive toward people. Their stings are rare, but they have been documented among the most painful of any insect in the world.

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Habitat

The tarantula hawk wasp is found in a variety of desert habitats such as shrublands, grasslands, and arroyos. They are often seen around flowers or running across the ground. Tarantula hawk wasps tend to live alone and many do not build nests at all. Instead, they burrow into the soil or use natural cavities or burrows of other animals and insects. Most hunting occurs at dusk, and adults will spend the day feeding on and around flowers. When the wasp paralyzes a tarantula, it will bury the tarantula into the burrow along with its eggs. Once hatched, the larvae feed on tarantulas that the female has paralyzed and provided.

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Behavior, Threats or Dangers

The sting of this wasp is known as the most painful sting in the entire world. Luckily, if one is stung by this wasp, the pain only lasts a few minutes and their venom is harmless to humans. Males do not have stingers, but females do, and will not sting unless provoked. If one spots a tarantula hawk wasp on their property, it is vital to just leave it alone. Always contact your local wasp control experts for assistance with tarantula hawk wasps.