Monday, August 28, 2017

Buzz Off!

Walked into my kitchen a couple days ago and found one of these things lying dead on the floor (the bug, not the Tic Tacs). It's a cicada killer!

They're a type of wasp that's common in the eastern half of the country. Unlike typical wasps which are social and build giant communal nests above ground, cicada killers are solitary and dig underground burrows.

Once a female digs its nest, it then cruises around looking for cicadas. When they find one they paralyze it with their stinger, then carry it through the air and drag it into their nest. They then lay an egg on top of the cicada, which hatches in just a couple of days. This larva feeds on the paralyzed cicada, much like the chest bursters in the ALIEN movie! Jesus, sometimes nature is horrifying!

The larva then mature in about two weeks, and enter a cocoon stage. They remain in that state until the next summer, when a fully mature cicada killer emerges from the cocoon, exits the underground nest and the whole cycle starts all over again.

My backyard has been lousy with cicada killers for the past month or so. Fortunately, despite their large size and terrifying appearance, they're virtually harmless (unless you're a cicada). Only the females have stingers, and they won't use it to attack unless they're stepped on or you try to grab one. I've walked through big buzzing swarms of them in my yard and they all completely ignored me.

A lot of people try to rid their yards of 'em, but personally I think it's best to just leave them be. They're actually somewhat beneficial, as they kill cicadas which can seriously injure your trees. Yeah, they do dig holes in your yard, but I don't think it's that big a deal. The holes are small, maybe a bit wider than a pencil, and the dirt they displace is about the size of an anthill. They only live for about two months, so they're a short-lived nuisance. Personally I think it's kind of cool to see a huge, scary-looking wasp that's not actively trying to kill me.

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