Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Death of a Cicada Killer

Yesterday as I walked my usual birding route around my local park, I noticed a large wasp flying slowly in front of me. I knew at once from its size and color pattern that it was a cicada killer. These large wasps specialize in capturing cicadas as food for their larvae. A female cicada killer stings a cicada to neutralize its nervous system and then walks the victim back to her burrow, where she lays her eggs on the cicada. When the eggs hatch, the larvae devour the cicada.

Though it is unnerving to see such a large wasp, to my knowledge they pose little threat to humans.

What caught my attention about this particular cicada killer was that it landed on a large locust tree, where it was quickly joined by another cicada killer. When I looked at the ground around the tree, I saw a dozen or more other cicada killers. Some were barely moving, such as the one above. Others appeared dead, such as the one below. Still others were definitely dead, with their insides eaten out, leaving only the exoskeleton. It seemed like a cicada killer graveyard! I assume the living ones will soon join them, as I have heard very few cicadas buzzing for the past week or two.