Bugs Are Our Friends: Eastern Cicada Killer

I recently participated in a walk, the purpose of which was to look for Dragonflies and Damselflies.   We saw 30 species of Dragonflies and Damselflies, but the highlight of the day for me was watching an Eastern Cicada Killer dragging a Cicada across a field to her burrow.

The Eastern Cicada Killer is one of our largest wasps.  Although it looks fearsome because of its size, it is not aggressive to humans.

The Eastern Cicada Killer female digs a burrow with a number of small cells, one for each egg that she will lay.  She then captures cicadas, paralyzes them with her sting, puts one or more of them in each cell, and lays an egg.

The cicada serves as fresh meat for the hatching larva.  When only one cicada is put in the cell, the larva will be male.  Female larvae are bigger, so require at least two cicadas.  The cicada prey is much bigger than the wasp predator, so as you can see, the female wasp goes to a lot of trouble to feed her young.

The scary-looking adult wasp is a vegetarian, feeding only on plant sap and nectar.

As so often happens in nature, the predator is also prey.  Red Velvet Ants lay eggs in Eastern Cicada Killers’ burrows, and the Eastern Cicada Killer larvae serve as food for the Red Velvet Ant larvae.  The food chain is complex…

Cicadas cause significant damage to trees.  We are fortunate to have predators like the Eastern Cicada Killer to keep them in line.

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