“Oh my god but he was so nice,” Teigen replied in a series of tweets. “Guys I think he is one of the good ones. Maybe I am tarzana, queen of the bugs. Is there a [expletive] entomologist here?”
Don't worry, Teigen. Experts say it was likely not a tarantula hawk, which hunt tarantulas, sting and paralyze them, and then drag them back to their nests, where they plant a single egg on them, according to the United States Forest Service.
Once the larvae hatch, the Forest Service says, they begin “sucking the juices from the paralyzed, but still living spider . . . feeding voraciously while avoiding vital organs to keep the host fresh. Eventually, an adult Tarantula Hawk wasp emerges from the nest and the life cycle begins once again.”
Gwen Pearson, educational outreach coordinator for the Purdue Department of Entomology, told The Washington Post that although she would need to see the insect better to be certain, she does not believe it is a tarantula hawk. Instead, she said, it looks like a paper wasp, known for building paper-like nests.
“It's not a tarantula hawk,” she said in a phone interview. “The behavior is wrong, the body is wrong and the size is wrong.”
Pearson said tarantula hawks have a characteristic “flick” to their wings, which she said she does not see in the online video.
Also, James Pitts, a biology professor at Utah State University who specializes in spider wasps such as tarantula hawks, said tarantula hawks have a taller thorax, longer legs and wings that are folded lengthwise, among other differences. He said that the insect on Teigen's arm is likely a predator or scavenger wasp that would only be dangerous to a person with an allergy.
Tarantula hawks, by contrast, are said to have one of the most painful stings. In 2015, invertebrate biologist Ben Hutchins told Wired that one recommendation is to “lie down and start screaming, because few if any people could maintain verbal and physical coordination after getting stung by one of these things. You're likely to just run off and hurt yourself. So just lie down and start yelling.”
By Thursday afternoon, Teigen's video had been viewed more than 1.5 million times and people commented on it 19,000 times.
Pearson, of Purdue, said paper wasps are nothing to be afraid of but should be treated respectfully.
“They can sting, although their fiercest behavior is reserved for defending their nests,” she said. “I definitely do not advise that people run around petting wasps. But when we look at all the amazing insects around us without fear, we can share the wonder of kids and discovery.”