Tarantula Hawk Wasp or Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis formosa)

The Tarantula Hawk Wasp or Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis formosa) was selected because of an initiative from a classroom in Edgewood, NM.  An elementary class and their teacher researched states which has selected state insects and then selected three insects for students around the state for which to vote.  This species was then selected by the 39th legislature in 1989.  A class in Alaska became interested in the project and attended the legislative session where the bill was introduced.

The insect is a black satin in color with orange wings which are smoky near the margins.  It has long legs and holds the wings at the side when not flying.  They are from 0.8 to 1.2 inches in length.  They are solitary wasps and probably the largest wasps in the United States.

Many species in this group (there are about 20 species in the U.S. and 250 in the world) burrow into the ground and form branching tunnels.  Females hunt for large spiders, stings them and drags them to the burrow where an egg is attached to the spider.  After hatching the larva will then feed on the paralyzed spider.  Adults of both sexes frequent flowers of trees, shrubs and especially milkweed.