Horrifying Video Shows Giant Wasp Paralyze Tarantula so Living Spider Body Can Host Egg for Weeks

A taxidermy re-enactment of the fight between a tarantula hawk wasp and a red-legged tarantula. Scott Moore on Flickr

In a dramatic bid to reproduce, a tarantula hawk wasp must attack an arachnid several times her size. One Arizona family witnessed and filmed this duel between species, which ended in a gruesome tragedy for the spider.

While out for a hike in the Sonoran desert, nine-year-old Cash Perry pointed out a tarantula to his family. The family noticed that the spider was having trouble standing up and walking, slowly falling over. They also noticed a large, black wasp nearby, dashing towards and away from the tarantula. Knowing they had found something extraordinary, they started filming.

"Probably a tarantula hawk, knowing that one sting can paralyze it," Cash narrates. The "tarantula hawk" or "tarantula wasp" targets tarantulas to host its larvae. The wasp, which is much larger than most wasps but much smaller than a tarantula, injects its prey with a sting that keeps it alive but makes it difficult for the animal to move. You can see the National Geographic edit of the video below:

The wasp lies on her back and moves over toward the hairy spider, positioning the stinger at the end of her abdomen to sting the animal again. The family wasn't concerned that the wasp would attack them, because she was fixated on the spider. But the sting of the tarantula hawk wasp is so painful for humans that the recommendation following a sting is to just lay down and start screaming.

This fatal dance happens every time a tarantula hawk wasp seeks to reproduce. It needs the arachnid's body to host its single larva, which grows inside the spider's body and eats it from the inside out, careful to avoid the vital organs so as to maximize the time it can keep the spider alive.

You can see another attack, complete with symphonic accompaniment, from the nature program video below:

As the immobilized spider was dragged into the dark depths of a wasp nest, all it had to look forward to was weeks of being trapped and eaten alive. The spider can do nothing as it becomes home to the progeny of its own enemy.

The family walked away having witnessed the darker side of the circle of life. By the end of the video, the attack was over, but for the tarantula, the nightmare was only beginning.