Interesting facts about Cicada Killer
”Sphecius speciosus” is the scientific name of a species of wasps which is commonly known as a Cicada Killer or Cicada Hawks. These giant wasps usually appear around the summer season and are known for their solitary behavior.
Cicada killers, also known as digger wasps (because of their digging ability), feed upon cicada by killing them. They are not very aggressive in nature and are beneficial because they pollinate plants.
All over the world, they have been given different names, mainly on the geographical basis of Cicada Killers. Few of the species are mentioned below:
- Sphecius spectabilis -Found in South America.
- Sphecius speciosus (Eastern Cicada Killer)-Found in Ontario, Canada, the U.S.A. Mexico and parts of Central America.
- Sphecius grandis (Western Cicada Killer) – Found in the USA Mexico and parts of Central America.
- Sphecius hogardii (Caribbean Cicada Killer)- Found in Florida and Caribbean countries.
- Sphecius convallis (Pacific Cicada Killer) -Found in the USA and Mexico.
What Do Cicada Killers Look Like?
Cicada Killer Wasps are large in size as compared to many other wasp species. Cicada Hawks are not as aggressive as the other species of wasps like yellow jackets, hornets, and likewise. They are 1 ½ cm to 5 cm long with a hairy surface and brown shaded wings.
Their body comprises of several different colors. The middle part of their thorax has a reddish hue and black while the abdominal portion comprises of light yellow colored lines. Their life cycle resembles other species of wasps and hornets. The duration is slightly longer than that of male hornets but the queens in both cases live longer. The male wasps are designed to protect their nest from foreign forces, just like the life cycle of bees.
Sphecius speciosus & Humans
Cicada killer wasps are not very harmful to humans as they do not bite. If you were to encounter one, you need to be cautious. A female cicada killer wasp has the ability to sting, whereas a male cicada killer wasp does not.
Interesting Cicada Killer Facts
Sphecius speciosus are amazing creatures and bear some interesting factors in its nature. Lets have a look at a few of them.
The 1st interesting thing is how the wasp got its name. cicada killer wasp, the female one, selects its target and kills with its poisonous sting. It then carries the corpse of the cicada and takes it to a burrow. The next step is to lay its egg under the right or left leg of the cicada. Later on, when the baby hatches out of the egg, it immediately starts feeding on the corpse of the cicada. That is how it got its name “The Cicada Killer Wasp”.
Gender of Larvae:
One strange, yet amazing ability of Sphecius Speciosus is to predetermine the gender of the larvae. When creating new generations, It takes more females compared to males. Depending on the need during that time, they are able to determine the gender.
Origin of Cicada Killer:
It is amazing to know that not every Sphecius murders the cicadas, but the species found in America. There are multiple reasons such as climatic conditions, body situations or anything, but the exact reason is still unknown.
You won’t be surprised if you see a cicada killer wasp flying while carrying a cicada. It’s obvious because cicada are very important for them to ensure the survival of their species. On the other hand, it would be a big surprise seeing these large black and pale yellow bugs flying without cicada.
Similarity with European Wasps:
It has been seen that people often use to confuse them with European wasps. The reason is because the body of the cicada killing wasp is yellow, while the body of the European wasp is a more vibrant yellow color. Furthermore, their body has more yellow than black unlike the Sphecius speciosus. Last but not the least, the European Wasps belong to the class vespidae, while cicada killer wasps belong to a different class.
Behavior towards Humans:
Unlike many species of the wasps, cicada killer wasps are not very aggressive nor a danger to humans. It terms of stinging activity, they are highly dedicated towards cicadas and will always gravitate towards a cicada instead of a human. Even so, be sure to avoid irritating this insect when you come into contact with it, otherwise, it may sting you.
Inclined towards Female targets:
Another peculiar behavior which you can find in the nature of Sphecius Speciosus is that few of them are inclined towards the killing of female cicadas. It has been found in many of the experiments that much of the Cicada Killing wasps prefer a female target instead of a male target. Biologists are unable to understand this behavior of Cicada Hawks but this situation exists.
Cicada killers don’t consume Cicadas:
As we know that Cicadas have always been ambushed by Sphecius speciosus but the strange element is that they don’t consume them for their food. This means that an adult doesn’t use to enjoy the nutrients of the body of Cicadas like their newly born baby. An adult is found to be inclined towards flowers and cherish the nectar of the flowers.
There was a myth about Magicicadas, a type of cicada, that they always use to escape a Sphecius speciosus. Later on, it was found that it is not true as well.
Most of the species of Sphecius speciosus have found to dig holes in soft soil because it is easy to dig a burrow here. On the other hand, it has been seen that few of the species can also dig holes in the fairly hard soil as well.
Prevention and Control
It’s quite evident and mentioned earlier that Sphecius speciosus are not a sign of worry for human beings as in case of many other pests and insects as they aren’t venomous for them. Still, their presence in our surroundings could be fatal in some cases. For example, a baby is crawling on the lawn and could be stung by the Cicada Killer Wasp. So it’s important to take the necessary precautionary measures.
Usually it has been seen that Cicada Killer Wasps use to dig burrows in the soft and moist soil. In such situation, you can try to change the environment for them. You can harden the soil by throwing some tough soil or by removing the moisture through anyway. It will discourage the Sphecius speciosus to turn their face towards your home.
You can use any general insecticides or in order to prevent these chemicals from damaging the nutrients of the soil use some special botanical insecticides. So, if you find the holes are new then you can try Tempo Dust. A good handful amount of Tempo Dust been applied to these holes will fill the holes and give you a chance to kill both i.e the Adult Wasp as well as the Larvae.
Another solution is the application of Bifen LP Granules. You need to make a solution, rather a thick paste of Bifen LP Granules in water and then paste it on to the holes. Initially, this treatment will work sluggishly but after sometime it will show its effects. It will block the passage and will prevent the entry and exit of the larvae.