For arachnophobes, Australia's huntsman spiders are about as terrifying as it gets (especially when they're big enough to haul mice around). Despite their fearsome appearance, though, some species of huntsman fall victim to an unlikely adversary: the spider wasp. 

Warning: This video contains strong language (and a giant spider)

Sydney resident Adam Farrow-Palmer was shocked when the wasp (belonging to the Pompilidae family) flew in through the back door and latched on to a huntsman twice its size, before dragging its prize around the kitchen. After following the insect and its arachnid prey to the bathroom, Farrow-Palmer was eventually able to capture the pair and move them outside.

Perhaps unsettled after being relocated, the wasp abandoned its supersized meal, sparing the huntsman a fate worse than death. "Spider wasps are parasitic insects who inject paralysing toxins into spiders before turning them into incubators for [their] larvae," explains the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife team.

After paralysis takes hold, the wasp hauls its immobilised victim to a burrow, where it will lay a single egg in the arachnid's abdomen. When the egg hatches, the mini-wasp immediately gets to work devouring its "live incubator" from the inside out. "It eats the spider bit by bit, leaving the vital organs [for] last so it'll stay alive for longer,” David Bock, coordinator at the Australian Museum's Search and Discover Department explained to Mashable.

Grisly as it may seem, using live prey to rear young is a pretty common parenting tactic among insects, and it's employed by a host of species. According to Patrick Honan, entomologist and Museum of Victoria manager of live exhibits, one in ten insects is parasitic.

The summer months of December and January are prime breeding time for spider wasps in the Southern Hemisphere, so the chances of encountering parasitic behaviour like this are at their highest. Last month, a wolf spider met its gruesome end in a similar incident that was filmed in Howard Springs Nature Park. But the action doesn't only take place Down Under. Spider wasp species are widespread throughout Africa, Australia, Asia and South America, along with their preferred hosts – huntsman and wolf spiders.


Header image: ron_n_beths pics, Flickr