Did you know Arizona is home to an insect with one of the world's most painful stings? An Internet video star recently found out.
Coyote Peterson is the subject of the YouTube series Brave Wilderness, and he visited the Sonoran Desert near Tucson in search of the tarantula hawk. (If you're squeamish, you might want to skip the next two sentences.) The wasp is named for its method of reproduction: It stings and paralyzes a tarantula, then drags it to a nest and lays an egg on it. When the egg hatches, the tarantula hawk larva devours the spider alive over several weeks, then pupates and becomes an adult wasp.
It takes a lot to paralyze a tarantula, so the tarantula hawk's sting is extremely potent — according to experts, only the sting of the bullet ant, found in Central and South America, is more painful. But tarantula hawks aren't interested in stinging humans. Unless you capture them and grab them with a pair of tweezers. Which Peterson did, as part of his quest to experience the world's most painful insect stings.
You can see the results for yourself in the video. We'll just say that if you intentionally get stung by a tarantula hawk, you're gonna have a bad time.
In the Phoenix area, a good place to spot tarantula hawks is atop Camelback Mountain. Again, they pose no danger to humans — as long as those humans don't go out of their way to get stung.