Article written by Cindy
This ugly critter is commonly known as a Tarantula Hawk, with the scientific name of Pepsis Formosa. We came across him/her while hiking the north trails at Corriganville in Santa Susana. They are in the spider wasp family.
Measuring up to 2 inches in length, these brightly colored insects are the prey of only a few predators, the roadrunner in particular. They are "nectivorous," meaning they live mosly on nectar, and have been known to become tipsy after feeding on fermented fruit.
The Tarantual Hawk preys on, as their name states, Tarantulas. The female of the species is able to find a tarantula through scent, and will then enter its burrow to chase it out. She will now attack the tarantula, stinging it, which causes paralysis. She will then drag her victim back into it's burrow and lay a single egg on its abdomen, seal it up and leave it to hatch. If a male tarantula is attacked the wasp will make a burrow and go through the same egg-laying and sealing procedure.
These wasps are generally mild-mannered towards humans and it is rare they will sting. However, one researcher who has been stung describes it like this... "To me, the pain is like an electric wand that hits you, inducing an immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations. The pain for me lasted only about three minutes, during which time the sting area was insensitive to touch, i.e., a pencil point poked near the sting resulted only in a dull deep pressure pain."