Saturday, October 3, 2015

Beware: Creepy Insect Post Ahead

For some folks, Tarantulas are nightmare inducing.
Tiny spiders in their house are hardly more than they can bear.
The thought of one that is nearly as big as their hand causes this reaction.

I happen to like Tarantulas because they prey on scorpions and red headed centipedes.  
Both those insects sting and both those insects come in my house.
The fewer of them the better.
Tarantulas have no interest in coming indoors.
They head the other way if they see me outdoors.
Live and let live.
I've gone so far as to get out of my car and shoo them off the road in my neighborhood so no one will run over them.
Yes, I'm one of those people.

photo credit: wikipedia stock photo
As with most things in this world, there is something bigger and badder than the thing you fear most.

photo credit:
Meet the Tarantula Hawk Wasp.
Second most painful sting in the insect world; only the Bullet Ant tops it.
An entomologist has come up with a scale for the pain level of insect stings and exposed himself to each and every sting.  
Some people need to have their heads examined, but I digress.

His name is Dr. Justin Schmidt and his "scale" is called the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.
Here is is description of the sting of the female Hawk Wasp (males are harmless).
"Blindingly fierce, shockingly electric.  A running hairdryer has just been dropped into your bubble bath."
Sounds like a good time, huh?

We have those here. 
In Texas. 
At my house. 
Flying around my pastures.
I just ignore them.

They have no interest in me.  Their biological clocks are ticking.  The females are out in large numbers right now, in search of a place to lay her 3 eggs.
She can only lay them on tarantulas---thus the name of the beast.

She somehow manages to sting and thereby paralyze a creature that is bigger than she is.
Then the real horror begins.  
Stephen King should take notes.

She then drags the spider to her waiting den (aka: hole in the ground).  They have been seen dragging a tarantula several hundred yards.  They have also been known to use the tarantula's own den for the next bit-----which is to take the spider down into the hole, lay eggs on it and then leave.
The tarantula is now the incubator for the young.  
Once they hatch, they eat the paralyzed spider, who is still very much alive.

Last weekend, I got to watch this natural freak show in action.
I came upon the struggle and eventual paralyzing of the tarantula.
I had no camera and so just observed.
She then began dragging the spider.  Backwards.
However, she made one mistake.
She was so intent on her prey that she made no mind to those that were watching her.
The chickens came closer and closer to inspect.  Movement of any kind might mean food for chickens.
Remember, with chickens---they will eat anything that doesn't eat them first.  
Tiny dinosaurs, but I digress.

Tarantulas are a favorite snack of chickens.
Just as quick as it had begun for the unsuspecting tarantula, it was over.
My chickens stole, fought over and devoured the spider, leaving the Hawk Wasp to wonder what just happened.

I learned online that Hawk Wasps have no predators. None.  Not one.  
The chickens came back to her to have a "wonder if she's tasty" look.  She sat back on her hind legs, front legs in the air and wings outstretched.  She hopped at them.
The hens decided, "NO!" and went back to picking seed heads off the grass.

Nature will have what nature wants.  
Welcome to the Jungle.