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Name: Cal McGaugh
Escondido, California (Zone 9b)
Sep 9, 2017 7:39 AM CST
|I realize this forum is primarily for plants, but had to share this rare photo op....(note: slideshow link at bottom)
Two days ago, my wife (Ginger) almost shouted, "Cal! Grab your camera & come here, right now!"
I scrambled to obey, and had no idea of what I was going to "shoot", but the tone and tenor of her
voice told me not to question or waste time, and did so, skidding to a stop a few feet from our laundry room door
to where a small clump of mint (as fate would have it) is growing in front of a chunk of pink quartz.
(Were it not for this visitor, I probably would have missed the image of just the mint on quartz).
I was totally mentally unprepared, but very happily surprised to see this dangerous beauty,
Hemipepsis ustulata.....The Tarantula Hawk!
All I could do was watch mesmerized (taking ~1pic/sec) as this very striking & formidable wasp greedily and almost drunkenly,
"grazed" on the mint blossoms. He was either oblivious to me, though he had to have seen me just 3ft away
with my large black eye (of the camera), or he was too engrossed, or he was confident in his armament, and that I wasn't a threat.
Note the large mandibles, which could also inflict a painful bite if necessary.
For whatever reason, he went about his business, and seemingly paid no attention to me.
My first encounter with a Tarantula Hawk was about 60 years ago when I was 12.....I found one that was hunting
for tarantulas at my family home in Del Mar, California. I was amazed to see the iridescent blue-black body, and
the spectacularly large and dangerous looking 1/4" stinger......I must have held it down, as it didn't "get" me,
but I remember letting it go, and it flew off without retaliation, thank God!
The next time was just a few years ago in the local desert, where we stopped by the roadside to take a pic of the
wild milkweed. I was amazed to see the blooms covered with these awesome creatures.
Word to the wise.....DO NOT provoke them!
But do watch and enjoy them from a safe distance. They don't seem
to be aggressive, but caution is advised.
According to the Wiki, their sting is the 2nd most painful of all insects, the Bullet Ant being THE most painful.
The description of the Tarantula Hawk's sting gives me new pause & respect for this incredible animal,
vis this article,
Sure, every so often it’s an unfortunate human on the receiving end of that stinger, but the tarantula hawk is far more placid than it may let on. “Even though they do have a really painful sting, in my opinion they’re just a really cool component of our fauna,” says Hutchins. “People don’t really need to be afraid of them, and indeed I think they’re really cool to just sit and watch them in your yard.”
Here is a slideshow I hope you will enjoy. Also hope to
get more images today.
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