Tarantula Hawk

A long black hawk with brilliant orange wings.
Tarantula hawks are brilliantly colored, but are predators with an incredibly painful sting.

NPS Photo/ Robb Hannawacker

Scientific Name

Pepsis thisbe


  • Tarantula hawks are large wasps. Pepsis thisbe, the most common species of tarantula hawk in the Grand Canyon, can grow up to 2 inches (5mm) in length.
  • Tarantula hawks have dark blue, iridescent bodies, bright orange wings, and long legs.
  • Males have straight antennae, females have curly antennae.


  • Tarantula hawks are found in every continent except Europe and Antartica. In the United States, they are found in the deserts of the southwest.
  • Pepsis thisbe is most commonly seen on the South Rim and inside the Grand Canyon- areas where their prey, tarantulas, are most common.


  • While adult tarantula hawks are nectavores and feed on flowers, they get their name because adult females hunt tarantulas as food for their larvae.
  • An adult female will paralyze a tarantula with its stinger, and then transport the spider back to the hawk's nest. Once there, the female lays an egg in the spider's abdomen, then covers the entrance of the burrow to trap the spider.
  • Once the egg hatches, the larvae will feed on the still living spider for several weeks, avoiding vital organs to keep the spider alive until the larvae pupates into an adult wasp.
  • Males do not have stingers, but females have a ¼ inch (7mm) stinger. They will not sting unless provoked, but their sting is reported to be the second most painful sting of any insect.
  • Roadrunners are one of the few animals that will risk being stung to feed on tarantula hawks.
Prepared by Matthew M. Safford, Wildlife Technician, Grand Canyon National Park, November 2015.

Grand Canyon National Park

Last updated: February 8, 2017