Spider Wasp

If ever a member of Kingdom Animalia was in need of a massive rebranding campaign, it’s the spider wasp (Family Pompilidae). As a first order of a business, a name change might be overdue, as its current moniker is pretty much an abridged list of mankind’s most common phobias. What’s its middle name – airplane crash?

Sure, not everyone can go by the name ‘Yorkshire Terrier’ or ‘Creme D’Argent’ (a breed of fancy show rabbits). But as Professor E. Jerome McCarthy of Harvard Business School described in the early 1960s, there are Four P’s in marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Please Don’t Call It A Spider Wasp.

Who wants to see a picture of a spider wasp? Nobody.

But even if a massive relaunch of the spider wasp with a friendlier name (e.g. ‘Cupcake Bug’) allowed it to finally make some friends, it’s doubtful it would keep those friends after they got to know the cupcake bug. This is because, whatever its name, the worst thing about the spider wasp is that it’s a spider wasp. That is to say, the scientifically-verified day-to-day activities of this loathsome creature far exceed any possible expectation, and even were we to call it a cupcake bug, we’d probably eventually start calling it a spider wasp behind it’s back. Even if it changed its named to Free iPod Wasp it would still be worth stepping on, headphones and all.

A disclaimer: if you’re easily disgusted, it’s not too late to visit this site instead:


Alright then. Let’s do this.

On we go. The female spider wasp spends its day hunting around the bases of trees for spiders. When it spots one, it descends from the skies, thrusts its stinger into the spider and injects it with a painful, paralyzing venom that renders the spider’s years of Tae Kwon Do training useless.

Of course, this seems like it should, by all accounts, be the end of the story. And it would if the spider were dead now. Alas, this is just the beginning for this poor creature that never thought its first trip to Makeout Point would be its last.

Don’t worry, it gets way worse.

With its prey alive and conscious but unable to move, the spider wasp drags the spider along the ground and tosses it into a pre-fabricated burrow*. There, it lays a single egg on the spider’s abdomen and leaves. And there the spider stays, paralyzed, alone in the dark, with a veiny, pulsing wasp egg glued to its stomach. But it’s not what you think though – it’s actually really unpleasant for the spider.

About now, you’ve probably figured out where this horror story is headed. But, being a well-trained moviegoer, you still might hold out hope for the spider. And being a well-trained moviegoer, you know this is false hope. And still, you can’t look away.

Seriously, what’s wrong with you?

You can guess the rest: the wasp larva hatches and slowly begins to feed on the paralyzed spider’s insides — leaving its vital organs for last, in an instinctively cruel effort to keep the spider alive as long as possible to ensure what its eating is fresh. Because spider wasps have surprisingly sensitive stomachs? No, because spider wasps have surprisingly absent souls.

Here. To get that last image out of your head.

The spider eventually dies and the baby wasp feasts some more before spinning a cocoon in what remains of the spider’s body. It emerges the following summer and heads out into the sunlight to work on the sequel, though it’s been seen having lunch with M. Night Shyamalan so don’t hold your breath.

No matter how much you hate spiders, you have to admit, when it comes to awful, the spider wasp takes the cake.**

Then it also probably tries to paralyze the cake and lay a wasp egg on it.
GRADE: Animal Review refuses to issue the spider wasp a grade of any kind on moral grounds.

*In a truly sociopathic display of sadism, many spider wasp species make the spider watch as they build a burrow. Whoa.

**Which really makes one wonder why, in 1989, another member of the family Pompilidae (i.e. a spider wasp called the ‘Tarantula Hawk’ who has a similar M.O.) was named the Official State Insect of New Mexico. We’re not making this stuff up. Nor are we making up that U.S. state legislatures vote on ‘official insects.’ Elections matter, everyone. So when you’re selecting a candidate, please do find out their positions on spider wasps first.

11 responses to “Spider Wasp

  1. I saw one of these at Griffith Park years ago and they are the reason my family and I don’t go hiking there anymore. It was, in fact, dragging a giant tarantula across the trail. People were stopping to look at it and then running away.

  2. The depravity is astounding. I think I feel sick. I could have gone my whole life without knowing those existed.

  3. That just ruined my whole day! Awful! Thanks for the kittens afterwards, coz seriously I had covered part of the screen with a book!

  4. Considering that a certain eight legged asshole species has terrorized me for the 18 years I’ve been alive, the only thing that made me cringe on this page was the “spider” portion of the spider wasp picture. Fuck spiders. That’s what you get for crawling in my shower, wiggling your eight creepy legs at me from my bedroom ceiling, and generally horrifying me for my entire life. Go wasps!

  5. Hi Animal Kingdom
    Having recently discovered your blog (sorry for being such a jonny-come-lately) and trawling through your archives i find myself horrified by this one post in particular. At the same time however, part of this post reminds me of a funny story about a beach suburb south of Melbourne in Australia. There was a small area known as Shark Bay, mainly due to the fact that sharks liked to swim there and scare off day-trippers. The local council fearing for the livelihood of their little piece of paradise came up with the brilliant idea of changing the name (as per your “cupcake bug” suggestion). Now, 50 years later, tourists and holidayers flock to Safety Beach with no knowledge of the beach’s former name and peaceful in their ignorance. Genius!

  6. I did a term paper once on tarantula hawks, which operate in this way, and while somewhat fascinating, it definitely creeped me out. Nature has decreed that the spider wasp can only perpetuate her line thru the living body of an adult tarantula, as the paralyzed tarantula’s abdomen is the only place they’ll lay their eggs. I guess these wasps can be much smaller than the spiders, but are tremendously strong. I also remember that, as the tarantula’s abdomen tends to be very hairy, these wasps will scrap off the hair in one spot, and that’s where they glue the egg to. Even creepier is that some spider wasps actually can inject their egg into a spider’s abdomen, and when the egg hatches the grub bursts out, a la “Alien”. Whew!

  7. I don’t see how kittens are any better.

  8. I saw one last week here in Sydney dragging a paralysed spider to its nest. Fascinating stuff!

  9. gordon chabot jr

    I have a red and black one in my yard in massachusetts, not nearly big enough for a tarantula, but it has returned here for years, and fills the hole with spiders. It has amazing visual acuity and reflexes, it reacts to any movement i have tested to 15 yards away. very dedicated to digging and reburying.

  10. O.M.G. I live in West Tennessee. I was just sitting in my backyard and saw the biggest spider I’ve seen back there in ….a month. It was crawling across from where I had just stood weeding my gladiolas 10 min before!!! AAARRRGHHHHH! But I noticed it was kinda wobbly. It “fell” into the grass. I couldn’t see it so I started praying. “God, I know you told me last night not to kill spiders anymore, and I said OK….but LORD WHYYYYYY are you testing me with this biggggggg chuncky spider?” I went in the house and got the cinnamon and chili pepper…no more lemon essential oil (check the other sites of how to repel spiders). I sprinkled it around my herb bed and sat back down. 1 minute later I saw a “wasp” dive into the grass and no lie…..head straight for where I last saw the spider. O.M. Godddddd! It then proceeded to chase the spider through the grass. I was mesmerized with …. what in the ****** …..God, whyyyyy are you letting me see this. It took the spider down and then about 2 minutes later I saw it dragging the spider backwards through the grass. What the HELL on Earth? I was so horrified I got up to get a closer look! Did the spider have the wasp….or did the wasp have the spider? I couldn’t tell. But, after watching for another minute…..oh the horror!….I realized the wasp was indeed hustling dragging it’s prey. Wow! That’s when I rushed inside to good ole http://WWW.whatdoyouwanttoknownow. And I found this side. I did close my eyes while scrolling the text so I wouldn’t see the pic. I had just seen it LIVE ACTION! This summer I had a wasp trap hanging up. It will be going in the trash tomorrow.

  11. I totally thought the kittens were in for it.

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