Friday, June 21, 2013

Historic Viaduct Footings: Tarantula Hawk - No, It's Not A Raptor, It's Much Scarier

Photo: Diane Edwardson,  June 18, 2013.  I encountered the scariest bug, EVER, on the Red Car Property, just above the historic landmark Pacific Electric Viaduct Footings.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

I was down on the ground shooting photos of some Kotolo Milkweed, when a gigantic 3" long black wasp-like bug with rust colored wings suddenly took off from the ground nearby.  It scared the Hell out of me & my dog.  It flew about a foot off the ground slowly, trailing its very long, substantial legs behind.  It kept landing & crawling in & out of gopher holes.  It seemed to stay for quite some time in a few of the holes.   
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 18, 2013.  This is the photo the first photo was excerpted from.  I didn't want to get to close to the scariest bug I'd ever seen.

Since I'd seen this bug once every few years in June, on the south end of the Red Car Property, I figured it was time for some research.  I searched What's That Bug? for a giant black wasp, Los Angeles.  The first post was a photo from Clare Marter Kenyon, a fellow community activist from Mt Washington.  Voila - scary bug identified: Tarantula Hawk.  It even involved Milkweed (which further reading revealed, these bugs, like so many others, can't resist). 

I sent my encounter to What's That Bug? A quick reply came from Bugman: "Several years ago, Daniel saw one in the Los Angeles River bed between the Hyperion Avenue bridge and the Fletcher Avenue bridge, right below the area you mentioned. Just last month, Daniel saw a Tarantula Hawk prowling the grounds near the Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Park. There are most likely Tarantula Hawks in Griffith Park as well."

A Tarantula Hawk is a large spider wasp that is definitely a tenacious predator that lays its eggs in spiders.  The larvae develop inside the paralyzed spider.   Check out a number of photos & accounts of spider wasps in action from around the world on What's That Bug?