The Stupid Biology of the Intentional Tarantula Hawk Sting

It should have been hard for YouTube adventurer and occasional sadist Coyote Peterson to outdo his previous pain-defying stunts. He has, after all, bloodily and bravely withstood the jaws of an alligator and a giant snapping turtle, together with severe stings from various nasty insects.

And yet, he recently managed to push human stupidity past all fathomable limits by allowing a massive spider wasp known as a tarantula hawk to plunge its curved stingers deep into his dumb, welcoming flesh. The consequences were not bloody — they were worse. Struck helpless by the searing pain of the wasp’s sting (it’s considered nature’s second-most painful, after the bite of the bullet ant), all he could do was scream.

That’s because a tarantula hawk, which can grow to about two inches in length, normally uses its excruciatingly painful sting to disable the much larger tarantula — its usual prey. Dragging the tarantula’s paralyzed corpse to its nest, the wasp proceeds to carry out a brutal, age-old ritual: A single egg, laid on the tarantula’s chest, hatches into a larva that burrows inside the spider’s body, feeding voraciously on all of its nonessential organs in an attempt to keep it alive as long as possible. It isn’t until it pupates and becomes an adult that the wasp emerges from its corpse cave and continues the process anew. This bug is metal AF.

The fact that the tarantula hawk will win this fight says everything you need to know.


The tarantula hawk’s sting is so painful that it evolved a brightly colored coat — a phenomenon called aposematism — as a way to warn predators to stay the fuck away. Over evolutionary time, it’s likely that individual tarantula hawks, with brighter markings, survived longer than their duller peers because predators were scared off by their flashy coats, allowing them to propagate and pass on their genes.

Yet even Nature’s spectacular warning was not enough to curb the will of Coyote Peterson, whose eye-rollingly human desire to conquer the toughest of his fellow Earth inhabitants got the best of him.

Homo sapiens at its finest.

What happens to Coyote Peterson? He writhes on the ground, unable to utter anything, but anguished, constipated moans, until at one point he bursts: “I can’t move my arm!” Later, he states that his arm feels like it’s in “a state of paralysis,” and the area around the stinger becomes hot with inflammation. Despite the pain, he refuses to cry. “I think I’m gonna cry,” he mutters. “Coyote Peterson doesn’t cry though, right?”

In the end, Coyote Peterson does not cry. But after watching this stunt, the rest of humanity cannot help but shed a tear for our species.

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