University of Arizona post-doc fellow Andrew Wesley has tasted virality on TikTok after finding a tarantula paralyzed by the stinging venom of a tarantula hawk and documenting its painfully slow return to life.
The saga began in mid-June when the Arizona-based entomologist found a tarantula hawk with its prey, a tarantula. At the time, the tarantula itself was completely paralyzed from the stinging venom of the wasp.
If this was you or I, we almost certainly would have assumed the tarantula was deceased but this bug specialist knew otherwise. The tarantula was immobilized from the wasp’s venom.
#tarantula hawk #wasp what an #amazing chemical adaptation for the wasp to control the nervous system of the tarantula in this way, preserving the tarantula to become #food for the developing wasp larva 👀 #natureismetal
That video was shared to TikTok on June 18th and has bene viewed 1.7 million times since then. His next video was posted 17 days after finding the paralyzed tarantula on the ground.
He says “I am convinced this tarantula is still alive and in this video I will try and convince you too.” He does so by flipping the tarantula over on its back to feed it water using a plastic pipette.
Tarantulas have been documented living up to 2 years without food! However, like any species, they need water to survive. So he flips the hairy spider over and it appears to drink the water, or so he believes.
That video has been seen 2.6 million times on TikTok.
A third video of the paralyzed tarantula was shared 22 days after it was stung. He previously mentioned that tarantulas can remain in a state of paralysis for up to two months after the sting of a tarantula hawk. In this clip, it appears as if the spider is reflexively reacting to the hairs on its leg being touched.
38 days after the sting and the tarantula took its first steps! He had posted a quick “I’m going to go live” video prior to this. In that, it was mentioned it can actually take up to 8 MONTHS and not just 2, before the tarantula fully recovers.
An article in the Post claims “viewers were paralyzed with fear” upon seeing these clips. That feels like fear mongering.
As I scrolled through the comments on all of the tarantula hawk vs tarantula videos, it seemed apparent that the vast majority of people following this saga were in the science community, or animal lovers in general.
Even people who are put off by insects and spiders seem to be fascinated by this tarantula’s slow recovery. And it is a miracle the tarantula was found by someone who could actually rehabilitate it.
How painful is a Tarantula Hawk sting?
For context, wildlife YouTuber Coyote Peterson got stung by a tarantula hawk a few years back to show how painful it was. He did it so we don’t have to:
I wouldn’t wish that agony on anyone.