Over the weekend, we were walking to the dog park when I noticed some curiously large insects on a shrub. They were striking in appearance but also frightening. They had large, black bodies and pretty rust-colored wings. One of the bugs took off, and when it flew its huge body hung limp, seeming to be too large and heavy to be carried by those wings. We soon passed two more, and the bf noticed them. He mentioned that he found them beautiful but sort of frightening. We watched them fly away, moved on, and forgot about them.
Later that day, a friend made a comment on this photo of a roadrunner, which I’d posted on Facebook:
Her comment prompted me to google roadrunners. Turns out they eat all kinds of bugs and lizards and can even kill rattlesnakes. And here I was thinking they were cool just because they run fast and look pretty. One description noted that they are one of the few predators of the tarantula hawk wasp. Something–maybe that awesomely frightening name–made me do a search for “tarantula hawk wasp.” In a fascinating coincidence, I clicked on a search result and found a photograph of the very insect we’d seen that morning on our walk!
The facts about the wasp made us shiver with fear. I don’t think I’ll look at one with such wonder again; I’ll be running the other way. While there are good things about the tarantula hawk wasp (eats tarantulas), there are some scary things. Its sting is considered one of the most painful stings in the world. Turns out there’s a scale for the pain of an insect sting, like a Scoville scale for stings. They are also one of the largest wasps in the world, so they are hard to miss. Apparently they don’t easily attack, though in my reading I learned that they often perch atop plants (as when we saw them) looking for females and can be territorial of their spot. Yikes!
I wonder if there’s something special I can put in a feeder to attract roadrunners. Maybe next time I find a scorpion, I’ll be sure to leave it outside for our friendly neighborhood roadrunners; roadrunners eat those, too.