As you know by now, the tremendous 17-year Brood X cicada emergence is in full effect in our region. We are hoping that you are fascinated more than you are bothered!
Today, we’re here to remind you that the emergence of trillions of cicadas also means the rise of their predators! (If you’d like more on cicadas themselves click here to visit our pre-cicada emergence blog.)
Understandably, this “killer” wasp, scientifically known as Sphecius speciosus is a terror to many and quite overwhelming to see, especially if you are not sure what it is. But rest assured, the Cicada Killer wants nothing to do with you. It has one mission and one mission only. You guessed it: to kill cicadas. Keep reading if you are interested in the gruesome, but fascinating process through which this happens.
Just like with Cicadas and every other animal, there are contrasting roles between the male and female Cicada Killers. The male is quite territorial, meaning if you are around their nesting area the male may aggressively fly around you. The good news is he is all talk, because he does not have a stinger and can not hurt you.
On the other hand, the female cicada killer is showing off her strength by moving pounds of sand to create a nesting space. She does have a stinger, but is too focused on her elaborate nest creations to want to use it on you.
The powerful, up to 1.5 inch long Cicada Killers like to form several nests in the same area. Each nest can be up to two feet deep and up to 36 inches wide. Cicada Killers do not live in groups like many other wasps and bees, but will create series of nests containing up to 100 individual burrows.
You would typically find Cicada Killer nests in sand, dry and loose soils in full sunlight and/or near flower beds or patios. Their interest in such areas can cause messes of soil on your property and can damage the roots of plants. Good precautions include watering plants and soils and stirring up any sandboxes regularly.
Although they are called Cicada Killers, the adults do not feed on cicadas. They prefer a diet of flower nectar, sap and plants. The biggest role of the female Cicada Killer is to hunt down cicadas. She will do this by taking down the cicada mid air, wrestling and stinging it with paralyzing venom. Then she drags it back to her burrow where she will NOT eat it. Instead, she becomes even more menacing, by planting an egg onto the still-alive cicada.
The egg will hatch in 2-4 days and the larva begins to munch on the cicada. The baby insect feast lasts about 1-2 weeks and is concluded with yet a new beginning. After devouring the cicada, the larva will build a cocoon and develop into an adult, where it will emerge in late spring or early summer.
If you’ve made it this far, you now understand that what the Cicada Killer does to cicadas is far more terrifying than what they will do to you. Nevertheless, the female Cicada Killer is willing to use her stinger to attack a human, but only if she is antagonized. So your best form of defense is to let them be!
On another note, our crews have become acquainted with cicadas and a few Cicada Killers thanks to our power tools and lawn mowers!
Cicadas often mistake the loud noise of equipment for calls from their fellow cicadas which causes them to land on people or equipment. As this is happening quite frequently during June 2021, our crews are always careful to respect the cicadas and their many endeavors.