Quick, pick three words you could put together to make the scariest possible creature!
What did you pick? “Invisible Famine Shark?” “Hivemind Sex Snake?”
I picked “Tarantula Hawk Wasp”. Let me explain.
You know tarantulas?
The huge, hairy tank versions of spiders that use their giant freaky legs to overpower birds and mice and then eat them alive?
The tarantula hawk is a 2-inch long monster wasp that hunts tarantulas and lays eggs in them for its babies to eat.
The worst part? The tarantula is alive the whole time.
See, the tarantula hawk is one of the serial killers of the animal world – parasitoid wasps. A parasite lives off its host and harms it in some way… A parasitoid lives off its host and always kills it.
It’s the difference between having a tick on you and having an alien chestburster inside you, and the tarantula hawk definitely falls somewhere on the chestburster end of the scale.
Ruthless, huge, and ridiculously well-armed, the tarantula hawk stalks its prey from above, using far superior maneuverability to outpace and cut off the spider’s escape route, before landing and grappling with it using special hooked claws on its legs, like the horror-movie monster it is.
The wasp then jabs in with a stinger a full third of an inch long, injecting the spider with venom that paralyses it in moments. That sting, by the way, is the second-worst in the world for pain, and hospitalises dozens of people in the US every year, after the wasp presumably developed a taste for succulent human flesh.
The spider is then dragged to the wasp’s murder burrow and thrown to the bottom of it, where the wasp lays its eggs and then seals the burrow, trapping its victim in the dark, paralysed.
With the eggs.
They’re found in the southern US and in the fever-dreams of H. R. Giger, and are the official state insect of New Mexico, a state which I am now considerably more wary of.
So if we’re gonna recap: a paralysing, hook-clawed flying Alien that drags bloody tarantulas into a pit in the ground and leaves them there to be eaten alive by their larvae.
Sweet dreams, guys.