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Galleries>Things that Sting>Cicada Killers

*** This is a work in progress that has suffered some setbacks due to the ignorance of someone, unknown. A female had dug a burrow at the edge of the sidewalk. I was monitoring it so I could shoot some activity in and around it, but I came outside one mornng and found someone had stomped on the burrow, killing the female which lay mangled to the side.***

Technically, they are a type of wasp. Unlike most other other bees, wasps and hornets, they do not live in hives or have complex social structures: There is no queen; no drone males; no thousands of genderless workers. These creatures are either male or female, and lead solitary lives.

They are very territorial and seem very menacing given that they are quite large at two inches or more in length with double that wingspan. These creatures are quite docile and can he handled if not treated roughly. Males often put on quite a display of fierceness with their kamikaze-like dive bomb attacks on things that wander into their territory, but they do not have a stinger and are harmless. The female does have a stinger but needs lots of provocation to use it on something other than its intended purpose.

an unfortunate moniker fosters misunderstanding and fear

male guarding his territory and watching for females

Slideshow featuring a male along with a look at a female's burrow.

Females dig large burrows with chambers that will become a nursery. After mating the female will locate and sting a cicada, paralyzing it. She then flips it on its back and flies it back to the burrow and into one of the chambers. This is quite a feat as the cicada is twice the weight of the wasp. She lays a single egg on the cicada on which the emerging larvae will feed. Unfortunately, due to the episode mentioned the preamble, I do not have shots or video of burrow activity, but images and video can easily be found elsewhere on the web.