We live in zone 6a and I have been gardening and cooking for years. This blog is an opportunity for me to share with you my success and those failures that come about on occasion. Plus, I want to hear from all the gardeners and bakers and cooks out there and learn from you. Feel free to share your ideas.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Cicada Killer Wasp
I had never heard of Cicada Killer Wasps and the past couple of weeks while in the garden, I noticed a very large flying insect that I thought was a horsefly. However, the closer I looked, it did not resemble anything I had seen before. Our neighborhood now has been visited by Cicada Killer Wasps. The males do not sting, but they will dive after people in the garden. Sort of frightening because they are really huge.
Below is information on these wasps from Joe Boggs, a bug expert from Ohio State. For more info go to his post at Ron Wilson. As Joe Boggs states, these insects are impressive and I agree.
KILLERS ON THE LOOSE! During a visit on Wednesday to GlenwoodGardens, a Hamilton County Park
District park located north of
Cincinnati, I observed one of the
most impressive populations of cicada killer wasps (Sphecius speciosus)
that I've ever seen in my entire career! These giant wasps are the largest
wasps found in Ohio, measuring 1
1/8" - 1 5/8" in length. They are the nemesis of cicadas, particularly the
annual dog-day cicadas (Tibicen spp.), so they are considered
beneficial. However, their low-level flights over sand volleyball courts,
lawns, and bare areas in landscapes can be disconcerting. Of course, if you
know what's actually going on, fascination can replace fear when you look upon
these impressive wasps.
First, remember that as with all bees and wasps, only the females possess
stingers (ovipositors = egg depositors). Second, unlike many of our other
wasps, female cicada killers are notably non-aggressive. You really have to
work hard to make them sting! The females spend their time digging and
provisioning burrows with paralyzed cicada-prey. Their attack on a cicada is
signaled by an abrupt halt in the staccato "singing" of the cicada, often
punctuated by a high-pitched screech, which usually means a cicada killer has
committed an insecticidal act.
The males spend their time establishing and defending territories that
encompass females. Biologists call such collections of males gathering for the
purpose of competitive mating "leks". The males will aggressively buzz any
transgressor who dares to enter their lek; including people. The females prefer
to dig their brood burrows in bare, well-drained soil that is exposed to full
sunlight. Although the wasps are considered solitary, all of the females have
the same nesting requirements. Thus, it is not unusual for there to be numerous
burrows, and wasps, in relatively small areas. The males are notoriously
territorial and will chase after other males as well as picnickers, golfers,
volleyball enthusiasts, and gardeners. Fortunately, it's all a rouse since the
males lack stingers.
Cultural practices that promote a thick growth of turfgrass will usually
eliminate a cicada killer infestation in a lawn in one or two seasons. In
landscapes, the wasps prefer loose soil in full sun; however, they will
occasionally set-up shop in open areas that are covered by a thin layer of
mulch. Deeping the mulch layer and periodical raking to disturb the mulch or
adding plants to shade the soil will make conditions less favorable for the
wasps. Since this is a beneficial insect, there are no insecticide
recommendations specific to controlling these wasps. Education is one of the
best approaches to reducing the angst sometimes caused by these wasps. Indeed,
GlenwoodGardens have a nice sign posted next
to one of their cicada killer colonies located in a high-traffic area to educate
the public on what's really going on with these bio-allies.