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Before talking about tonight’s images I want to let you know that I’ve added some images to the “Gallery” section of this blog. To view the Gallery, just click on the icon in the upper left-hand corner of any of the posts that you receive as e-mails. That will take you to the home page. Scroll to the bottom and you’ll see the Gallery. Click on any of the images and it will appear on your screen. You can review all of the Gallery images just by hitting the left or right arrows. The images are organized randomly.
Now, for tonight’s post. I was over the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum last week and I noticed a milkweed bush in bloom. The bush was covered with huge wasps. These were members of the genus Pepsis and they ranged in size from huge to gigantic. Some of the really big wasps were nearly two inches long.
These big wasps are known locally as “Tarantula Hawks” because the females of the species specialize in hunting and attacking tarantulas. Their objective is to paralyze the giant spiders with their ultra-potent stings to serve as food for their offspring. I’ve talked about Pepsis stings in previous posts. By reputation, female Tarantula Hawks possess the most painful sting of all insects. I can attest from personal experience that one of these wasps’ stings is indeed memorable, sort of like being jabbed by a red-hot poker.
But, none of the wasps on the milkweed bush were females. Every single one of the dozen or so wasps that I observed was a male. You can tell male Pepsis wasps by their rounded abdomens (the females have abdomens that taper to points) and by their ultra-long antennae that frequently recurve like handlebar mustaches. Unlike the females, male Tarantula Hawks are stingless.
These males were happily sucking up milkweed nectar while the females were off risking life and limb doing battle with tarantulas!
Male Pepsis wasps have only one role in life and that is to mate with the females. So, they live a carefree existence. Perhaps a somewhat sexually frustrating one, however, because as I photographed these males I was a bit amused to watch several of them attempting — with futility — to mate with other males. The objects of their ardor were pretty quick to redirect their suitors with a great deal of indignant buzzing and posturing. I have no opinion as to whether some of these wasps are gay as opposed to just being overeager.
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 125, f11 @ 1/160.