Monday, August 25, 2008

Who's Got Giant Wasps?

I've got giant wasps!

Just when I thought all the summer excitement of the cicadas of Cincinnati was completely gone (except for the occasional husk), there is more fun!

Yesterday, I was outside and, like any good homeowner, weed-whacking, when I looked down to see a large mound of obviously-dug-out dirt. Next to another one. There were almost a dozen, actually, anywhere from four to nine inches in width.

What the hell? Moles again? Some kind of crazy ants?

So I did what every reasonable male without supervision would do: I poked one of them with a stick. And I poked again. And from a certain angle, I could see the entrance hole in one of these buggers. and it was about as thick as my pinky finger.

That's no ant.

Figuring that it was innocuous, I stood back up, picked up the weed-whacker, and just before I pulled the trigger - a deep, resounding "Bzzz-bzz-bbzzzzz" and I turned quickly to catch a quick shift of movement to match the noise and ...this:

The Cicada Killer
Not My Picture

That image is about right: hovering from the dirt nest like an Apache Chopper, and slowly moving in my direction, was a wasp larger than I'd ever seen. There was black and there was yellow, but my senses were first overwhelmed by the tremendous noise it made and then by the fact that it was almost two inches long and as thick around as my pinky finger.

So I did what every reasonable male without supervision would do: I dropped the weed whacker, screamed like a schoolgirl, and retreated twenty feet, doing a twitchy, shivering dance of sorts. After calming down and seeing several of these behemoths come and go, I slowly reeled the weed-whacker in by the power cord and retreated to the internets to find out about this monstrosity.

The Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus)

The boring part of the story is that these guys are called Cicada Killers. Regionally, they have adapted to their habitat and emerge only after the cicadas - surprise! They tunnel into the dirt, one female per mound, and bind up their eggs with cicadas so their babies can feed...when the cicadas wake up.

The males, most often seen, cannot actually sting. And the females, who can, will only do so if stepped on barefoot or grabbed.

Aren't you lucky! This means at least one more post. I've got some pictures of the mounds, but by the time I got my blood pressure down and opened a beer, it was nearing dusk, and I couldn't catch any pics of the wasps. Better luck tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh. Ish. Here's my cicada killer story. (those bastards are HUGE)

I was mowing our neighbors lawn with a push mower. My brother was swimming in our pool. I went over a ground nest of cicada killers and didn't realize it. A bunch of them came boiling up out of the ground. So many that my brother could see them swarming me. I screamed and ran into our neighbor's garage. My brother ran into our garage and got the first two things he could grab - a fire extinguisher and some WD40.

When he sprayed them with the fire extinguisher, they got heavy and floated closer and closer to the ground until they crashed down. Then he sprayed them with the WD40 to suffocate them.

My hero.