Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's On The Lunch Menu

Location: Tucson, AZ

As I was walking along in the desert the other day, a movement on a small cactus branch caught my eye. It turned out to be this little moth, who was caught on the cactus' needles, fluttering its wings in a useless attempt to free itself. If I saw it, I imagine other creatures did, too, and the moth probably became somebody's easy lunch.

While strolling through a wonderful outdoor museum here in Tucson called the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, I came upon this Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis sp.), a very large wasp that -- and please stop reading NOW if the realism of nature's cruelty bothers you -- paralyzes a fully grown tarantula and drags it back to its nest so its larvae can dine on the still-living tarantula, avoiding the spider's major organs for as long as possible to keep the meat fresh. Ah, Mother Nature!

The stalking of a tarantula by a Tarantula Hawk can be seen on this video. A video of a Tarantula Hawk dragging an already-paralyzed tarantula can be seen here. This video will give you a sense of scale -- this is one of the largest insect you will ever see. And if you do see one, don't touch it -- the Tarantula Hawks' sting is on the top of the insect-sting pain scale. Oddly, however, it is New Mexico's State Insect!

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