Monday, September 08, 2008

The Killers


Sphecius speciosus
Eastern Cicada Killer
(with prey)


They came last year. Claiming a patch of lawn. Spinning and banging in the air. Digging burrows and leaving piles of soil.

Some massive frigging wasps. Whoa!

This year, more arrived. Well, actually, it was probably their babies. Meet the Eastern Cicada Killer. Females sting cicadas, drag them into their burrows, and lay their eggs on the paralyzed victims. The males circle around constantly searching for emerging females to mate with. They patrol their territory and bump into anything that moves. However, unless you're another male Cicada Killer, don't worry. The males have no stingers.

I'll admit that I'm a bit belligerent toward these beasties. Cicadas sing my favorite summer song (the "locusts" buzzing in the trees). I didn't let this poor fellow in the picture be eaten alive by the wasp's maggot.

Sure, they may control the cicada population, but just to be sure I'll, um, control a few of them.

19 comments:

Selma said...

I love the hum of cicadas, it just says 'summer' to me. I had no idea those cicada killers even existed - they seem quite ferocious. I'll need to google them and see if they hang around the east coast of Australia too. Scary creatures.

The Grocer said...

Looks vicious, knowing sweet nothing about Cicadas are they a positive resident of the garden?

Aine said...

The knowledge that they have no stingers is not enough to qwell my fear instinct when those things are patrolling. They are such meanies!

Thank you for protecting our dear cicadas!
:)

Sarah Hina said...

What a bunch of bullies. You show 'em, Jason. ;)

I like the buzz of the cicadas, too. It's so insistent and summer-like in its intensity. But crickets will always sing my favorite outdoor song. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm a cicada lover too. nothing says summer like the droning of the cicadas. I used to love collecting their shells and putting them all over my room.

Hoodie said...

Ugh! You know I have my own experience with these suckers. They kept me out of my backyard for an entire summer. I'll attest to their hugeness.

I wonder how the people living in our old house fared this summer?

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

Cicadas have always been associated with music and poetry,but never knew they were so wicked!

Nice capture :)

Geraldine said...

Yikes!!! Bug alert, beware: Jason Evans has your card marked!!! LOL.

What a mean looking critter.

Hugs to you and Aine, G

www.mypoeticpath.wordpress.com

Frank Baron said...

Good for you. Generally speaking, I'm a fan of live-and-let-live -- but have little sympathy for parasites.

Terrific shot though. Reminds me of when I saw a dragonfly and wasp in a battle to the death. Alas, I had no camera with me. The dragonfly won and I cheered.

FANCY said...

We say here in Sweden ..."as long you can hear the Cicadas you have the mind and heart still young"

ChrisEldin said...

Put me in the camp with the cicado lovers! And the crickets...

That's one awesome shot though.

jason evans said...

Selma, the Cicada Killers didn't exist here until recently. Not really sure how quickly they are spreading.

The Grocer, I haven't known Cidadas to be damaging. I suppose they eat leaves, but unless you're talking about the 7 year cycle, there hardly seems to be enough to do any damage.

Aine, don't worry. I'll battle them for you. ;)

Sarah, cicadas by day, crickets by night. Makes you want to curl up with a book, doesn't it?

Charles, their emergence in midsummer is an anticipated change. The lazy heat sets in. The long naps.

Hoodie, I remember your invasion! If they move in on you again, give me and the Anti-Cicada Killer League (ACKiL) a call.

Sameera, see, this one was minding his business, singing a nice song, when this nasty thing landed on his back!

Geraldine, the picture really doesn't do their size justice. The first time I saw one, I thought, holy heck!

Frank, hats off to the dragonfly! Something about having an egg laid on you and being devoured just seems like a rotten deal.

Fancy, that's a wondeful saying! Thank you for sharing it. :)

Chris, down there where you are must have an even higher population. I wonder when the next seven year cycle is. I think it was just a couple years ago.

Barbara Martin said...

This was news for me. Thanks for posting.

bekbek said...

In a word, "Eeeewww!"

Okay, technically not a word, but... Pretty cool, though; I had no idea there were enough cicadas to warrant a special killer. I remember when I was in high school I wished I was interesting enough to have enemies...

JR's Thumbprints said...

The sound of Cicadas has always reminded me of something sinister happening in the woods. They're the perfect backdrop for a murder.

jason evans said...

Barbara, hopefully, they won't be coming to a town near you.

Bekbek, cool enough to have enemies...loved that! Yeah, this cicada is definitely way cool. A specialized predator just for him. (I wonder what my specialized predator would look like....)

JR, actually, I can hear that now that you mention it. The cicadas are singin' a little too loud today.

ChrisEldin said...

Hi Jason,
I was a few years ago. They were LOUD!
Flying everywhere and literally crashing everywhere because they're pretty blind.
I have photos of my kids covered in cicadas--playing. I should dig them up and post them...

The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

I love parasitoid wasps! I was dissecting a Russian wheat aphid under a microscope the other day when this enormous thing flopped out, writhing and undulating. It was a wasp larvae; it had eaten all of the aphid's reproductive system and lower digestive tract, leaving the head for last to keep it alive and fresh as long as possible.

Plus, they have really cool binomial names, like the almond moth wasp: Bracon hebetor. Possibly the most beautiful name of any creature...

jason evans said...

Chris, I'd love to see pictures!! I've read about how they buzz around and knock into things. That must be quite an experience.

EOH, whoa, that must have been a real surprise! I wonder how long the cicadas live while they're being eaten.