Monday, August 09, 2010

Cicada Killer

When I stopped to eat lunch and Jamaica Bay's picnic pavilion, I saw what I thought was a cicada fly past and land on a nearby fence. Something seemed odd about the way it flew and landed, though, so I looked at it through my binoculars. Instead of just a cicada, it was a cicada killer carrying its prey.

Eastern Cicada Killers (Sphecius speciosus) are large wasps that hunt cicadas to use as food for their larvae. A female stings a cicada to paralyze it, then carries the paralyzed cicada back to a burrow. Once the cicada is in a burrow, the wasp will lay an egg on it. When the egg hatches, the larva will feed on the cicada until it is ready to spin a cocoon.

While these wasps are large, they are usually not aggressive towards people. Males have no sting, and females only sting if physically threatened.

I think this cicada's prey is a Linné's Cicada (Tibicen linnei), a common species in our area.