Anza-Borrego Tarantula Wasps

Anza-Borrego Tarantula Wasps

In 2004, I made a trip to the Anza-Borrego desert State Park. This is a relatively new state park with some incredibly scenic views and areas. There are strange-looking canyons, reminding me of something from science fiction stories, weird rock formations and bizarre plants.

Tarantula wasps
One of the Tarantula wasps that I photographed in Anza-Borrego. It was about two inches long.

I’ve been to Anza-Borrego a couple of times before, and I knew to stop at the visitors center. It’s a great place to find out what’s happening in the park and what there is to see. The rangers also know all about local conditions and can warn of any dangers that should be avoided.

So anyway, I stopped at the visitors center and stretched my legs. I spied a beautiful tree surrounded by bushes and walked over to it. The tree was covered in little yellow flowers, and the petals were filled with hundreds of busily buzzing insects. There were bees, wasps, hornets and yellow jackets.

I boldly walked up close to the tree because I had seen some of the most gorgeous insects I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. These wonderful creatures were red and black, and they looked wicked. It was very apparent that a sting from one of these creatures would be very painful.

I carefully walked up to one of the wasps and took some pictures. I got within a couple of inches of one of them, and it seemed to be posing for me. I got a distinct communication of “look at me, aren’t I beautiful?” It might have been just my imagination, but it seemed like the wasp knew I was there, understood that I just wanted to admire its beauty, and was perfectly happy with me standing just six inches from its body.

The rangers, however, were not so ready to accept such a reality. One of them saw what I was doing and screamed at me that these insects are known as “tarantula wasps” and warned me that their stings were extremely painful. I ignored the ranger as I was no danger to the wasp and it most certainly understood my intentions. I snapped a few more pictures, then slowly backed out of the bushes and talked to the ranger.

He explained that this wasp hunts all over the desert, looking for tarantula spiders (hence the name). The wasp stings the spider, lays an egg in it, and stuffs it into a hole in the ground. The egg hatches and eats the spider as food.

I spent a few more minutes looking at the tree with a greater understanding of the life of this beautiful creature. Nature sure is interesting.

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