Tarantula Hawk Wasp

Actual Size: 1.5”to 2”

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
  • Although sting is quite painful, the effect only lasts a few minutes

Tarantula Hawk Wasps in El Paso TX and Anthony NM

Tarantula hawk wasps are solitary wasps and one of the largest of its species. Found in the deserts of the southwest United States, these wasps can exceed 1.5” or even 2″.  Tarantula hawk wasps possess a powerful sting, which it uses to subdue its tarantula spider prey. These wasps are usually not aggressive, but the sting has been documented among the most painful of any insect. Adult tarantula hawk wasps are actually considered to be nectavores, as they feed on flowers. It is just the female wasp that stings and paralyzes tarantulas for food.

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Nests

These wasps are found in a variety of desert habitats such as shrublands, grasslands, and arroyos. They are often seen around flowers or running across the ground. Although ferocious-looking, these wasps are not aggressive or prone to stinging. THW’s 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. The larvae of the THW feeds on tarantulas that the female has paralyzed and provided.

Tarantula Hawk Wasp Habits & Dangers

The good news is that these wasps rarely sting. The sting of the tarantula hawk 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 help with these wasps.