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Raegan BIRD

TARANTULA HAWKS
& MESQUITE FLOUR












Prior to moving we spent hours researching new insects that we might encounter.

Daniel was happy we were leaving the north east, where after recovering from an infected spider bite he developed a new fear—being killed by a fellow recluse. He convinced himself that any common house spider he encountered was one, despite always being in plain sight and lacking any sort of violin signifier.

We found that tarantula hawks, common to this desert, had one of the most painful stings according to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index—a scale whose sensations range from the burning of a single arm hair to letting the hairdryer share your bath. Though not lethal and lasting only five minutes, their sting renders the recipient unable to do anything but drop to the floor and scream.

The female hawks use this sting to stun an adult tarantula, paralyzing its nerves before dragging it back to its nest and puncturing a hole into the spider’s body to lay its egg. The larva will feed on the organs of the spider, slowly and parasitically so that their food is available for longer, until a fully grown wasp emerges.

Daniel and I watched many video compilations of people treating themselves with a sting from a tarantula hawk. We thought this might give us a good idea of what to expect, should we encounter them.

Shortly after moving in I spotted a dead one near our mailbox. Initially it caught the light like a CD shard, an object that also wouldn’t have been out of place, many people here hang them near their gardens to deter birds. Once I was close enough to identify it, the possibility of wind, rare and barely stirring at the time, became terrifying. I watched its body dangle from a lizard later that day at the start of my walk to the water-refill-health-food corner store.

Our yard was shaded by mesquite trees, their flowers are supposedly a favorite meal of the tarantula hawks. We expected to see them more often but the nightly haunt of the neighborhood cats kept the spider numbers low. Instead the flowers were pollinated by bees and the seed pods fell to the ground to be eaten later by our dog.

At one of the gigs I picked up near the holidays, I collected and ground the pods into a woody flour for pie crusts. The taste of the flour is full and heavy with the lingering taste of shiitake mushrooms. It pairs deliciously with a tart fruit pie. After tasting the dough for the first time, and being visibly surprised, the man I was working for told me that ‘the rhubarb couldn’t be bothered and the cherry doesn’t mind.’ 







Raegan BIRD has had fiction published in New York Tyrant, Post Road, RECIPES UNDER CONFINEMENT (via Ma Bibliothèque) and PETS (from Tyrant Books). She currently lives in Virginia, and co-runs the publishing project, BLUE ARRANGEMENTS (see here).

raeganbird.com / @raegan_bird 


Image—

 Robert Frank,
‘Restaurant, U.S. (1, Leaving Columbia, South Carolina),’ 1955.
 © Robert Frank, from The Americans
 (Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, New York)




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Hotel is a magazine for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. The magazine is bi-annual, the online archive is updated periodically.



     

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