Friday, July 10, 2015

Cicada killers

Cicada exoskeleton.
Have you seen any cicada exoskeletons (they look like Garthim from Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal) lately? I found one near my front porch last week.  This time of year, with the cicadas (and their noise) come the topic of today's post- cicada killers.  These large wasps can be startling to see when they fly around trees or low over the lawn.  They reach about 1.5 inches in length with dusky wings, reddish-brown thorax and a yellow and black abdomen.

Cicada killer wasp.
Females are pretty docile, but males are territorial and will fly at you until you leave their area.  Only female wasps (and bees) can sting as the stinger is a modified egg-laying structure.  The female cicada killers create burrows in the ground and then go off to sting cicadas.  The cicadas are paralyzed by the sting and taken by the wasp back to the burrow where she digs a side tunnel, crams in the cicada and lays an egg on it.  When the egg hatches, it will feed on the cicada provided.

That being said, cicada killers can be considered beneficial as they help to cut down on the cicada population.  They can also be considered a pest since sometimes people will have holes all over the yard from the wasps' tunneling behavior.  If you fall into the latter category and want to do something to manage the population, you can sprinkle a insecticidal dust over the holes and tamp it down with your shoe.

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