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Don't Kill These Guys!

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You may have noticed these large wasps flying around and making burrows in loose soil.

cicadakiller2

They may look fierce and frightening but they are actually not very aggressive. These are Cicada Killers and the female digs burrows in loose soil and she provisions the nest with cicadas that she paralyzes by stinging them before carrying them to the burrow. It is possible to be stung by these wasps but you have to little put your hand on one to get stung-which is a pretty stupid thing to do. The sting hurts momentarily and the site doesn't seem to swell as a hornet or paper wasp sting does.

How do I know this? Well, guess who was stupid.

At The University of Kansas they used to aggregate around the entrance of Strong Hall - the entrance facing Snow Hall. I haven't checked to see if they are still nesting there.

Here is a pretty good summary of the natural history of these wasps:

http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/buginfo/cickillr%20wasp.htm

You can control them with chemicals but there really doesn't seem any reason to do this from my way of thinking. Supposedly cultural practices like improving your turf in areas where they nest help, but I rather have the wasps myself.

In terms of identification there isn't a whole lot of insects with which you can confuse these wasps. The females are two inches or so long, their burrowing and swarming behavior in areas where you have loose soil is pretty distinctive. Again they are not likely to sting you; in fact I was standing in the middle of a cluster of wasp burrows on the JCCC campus when I took this particular shot. So use some common sense (not like me) and enjoy!

Comments

Nikki May 3 years, 11 months ago

Makes me want to go loosen the soil. I do think I've seen these guys before.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

Feast all you want, RoeDapple! From 'National Geographic':

Low-Fat, High-Protein Cicadas: New Health Snack? John Roach for National Geographic News Updated May 18, 2004

High-protein, low-carbohydrate diet fanatics take note: The billions of cicadas emerging from the ground en masse this month are a healthy alternative to that bacon double-cheeseburger without the bun.

"They're high in protein, low in fat, no carbs," said Gene Kritsky, a biologist and cicada expert at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio. "They're quite nutritious, a good set of vitamins."

clipped from: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/05/0503_040503_cicadafeast.html

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

A guy named "Roach" writing about eating bugs. I've never seen a greater conflict of interest in my life.

Paul Decelles 3 years, 11 months ago

Thanks Ron,

Of course insects are a regular part of the diet in many parts of the world. There is a somewhat quaint book published in the late 1800's called Why Not Eat Insects, but a fellow by the name of Vincent Holt. It's out of print but is online at:

http://bugsandbeasts.com/whynoteatinsects/

And he gives sample menus, some of which could appear at some of Lawrence's more eclectic eateries.

riverdrifter 3 years, 11 months ago

I had one snatch a cicada out of my hand when I was a kid. I am not making this up!

Paul Decelles 3 years, 11 months ago

River,

Actually I think this is quite believable since these wasps' behavior tends to be very stereotyped. Sometimes they seem obsessively single minded. So it is quite possible that a wasp in hunting mode would snatch a cicada from you.

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