Found all over the world, with many in southern Africa, the name of this wasp refers to its unique behaviour. It literally hunts spiders. This is a creature not to be messed with, having a deadly sting and known for its aggressive behaviour, although it tries to warn off potential predators with its gaudy dress-sense. Note its bright, metallic wing colours that advertise it is not worth eating (aposematic). Unlike other wasp species however, it is a solitary creature, spending its time nesting alone in crevices or burrows rather than in colonies like other wasps. Although it can fly well, it spends most of its time running around on the ground searching for prey under rocks and leaves.
Most of these species hunt spiders and are partial to the baboon spider seen here. Once detected, the wasp uses its great agility to paralyse the spider by stinging it with its deadly venom. Then, it drags its paralysed victim into a pre-prepared burrow, where the spider will become host to the wasp larva. The wasp will lay its eggs on or inside the spider’s abdomen, then leave the nest, close it up and conceal its entrance. After about 10 days the eggs will hatch and the larva will feed off the live spider. After consuming the spider, the larva will spin itself into a silk cocoon where it will remain dormant until it emerges as an adult. It sounds like science-fiction, no?
There is so much we still do not understand about the fascinating insect world, however, what we do know is how importance insects are to the essential functioning of ecosystems. When Peace Parks and partners are involved in rewilding – returning the land to wildlife and wildlife back to the land – it is invested in restoring natural processes and species, then stepping back so they can get on with their thing. Whether its spider-hunting wasps or keystone species like lion, each and every life is important for healthy, balanced ecosystems.