Deja Vu: It’s Tarantula Hawk Season

Boulder City Social has QUITE a few more fans since August of 2011, which is when I first made this post and since I saw one in my backyard this past weekend…I think a re-post about the horror that is the “Tarantula Hawk” is in order. Gross…here goes:

Tarantula Hawk in Boulder City, NVOye…it’s about enough to make me move back to California. I was watching what I thought was a dragonfly cruising around the backyard until I noticed it wasn’t doing that “bouncy thing” they do, but flying in a fast and straight line. Eventually, it buzzed close enough for me to see it had a huge black body and reddish wings, which warranted internet investigation. I almost started packing my bags right then, I tell ya.

Considering I have an irrational fear of bees (irrational since I’ve never been stung) — imagine my horror when I discovered that there’s a tarantula hawk hangin’ out in my backyard…and it scores the 2nd highest level of pain on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.  That’s comparable to a “blinding, fierce and shockingly electric pain…like a running hair dryer has been dropped into your bubble bath“.  Uh-huh…other than the fact that I closely monitor a sting pain index, who’s irrational now?

I’ll gladly share the Schmidt Sting Pain Index with you further down – but two things first:

  1. Here’s some information on tarantula hawks, since they’re currently in season (which is summertime) and cruisin’ the streets of Boulder City:

Tarantula hawks (officially called Pepsis) are wasps and nine of the fifteen U.S. species are here in the desert of the Southwest (as far north as Logan, Utah)…pretty much where tarantula spiders are found. Why? Because the females use tarantulas as host nurseries for their larvae. Gross….here’s the short version:

Tarantula Hawk FightA female tarantula hawk finds a tarantula spider by smelling its burrow. She goes in, forces it outside and stings it, which permanently paralyzes it, but doesn’t kill it. She drags it back to her own burrow, lays her egg on it and then seals up the burrow.

Once the egg hatches, the newborn hawk feeds on the tarantula, until the spider finally dies  from being eaten alive. Yes…that was the edited version…the detailed one is way more disgusting and there’s a good blog post that you can read by clicking here.

Okay.  That’s all good.  As long as the females are more concerned with setting up their nurseries than stinging me — I’m as happy as I can be barring the complete eradication of the species (but then the ensuing tarantula problem we have is equally as disturbing, of course).  But let’s get to what really matters here:

How bad would it hurt?

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index is a pain scale (from 1 to 4) that rates the relative pain caused by different stings.  Here they are:

  • 1.0 – Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
  • 1.2 – Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.
  • 1.8 – Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
  • 2.0- Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
  • 2.0 – Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
  • 2.x – Honey bee and European hornet: Like a match head that flips off and burns on your skin.
  • 3.0 – Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
  • 3.0 – Paper wasp: Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
  • 4.0 – Tarantula hawk: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair dryer has been dropped into your bubble bath.
  • 4.0+ – Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

Suddenly, a bee sting doesn’t sound so bad to me.

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