|Image: Mike Keeling|
Cicada Killers are about 20 species in the genus Sphecius, that can be found across the world in tropical and some temperate climes. North America's Eastern Cicada Killer (S. speciosus) seems to be the one that has most captured our malicious, little hearts.
|Image: Steven Severinghaus|
|Image: Chris Kreussling|
Or did he?
|Image: sandy richard|
It's good that the males can't sting otherwise they'd probably just kill each other. Females do have venom, but they are thankfully uninterested in humans. These wasps are solitary, not social, so without a huge nest full of sisters, grubs, food and a queen, they simply have better things to do.
For the females, however, life has barely begun. And it's a life of toil and labour punctuated by nectar to take the edge off. She must first get digging, burrowing a good 30 to 60 (foot or two) into the ground. This is just the kind of burrow she herself emerged from.
|Image: John Kaminski|
Cicadas can easily be as big as their Killer and a lot heavier due to their more robust shape. They can't do much to defend themselves other than get really loud and annoying, and once the venom takes its toll, the struggle ceases.
|Image: Steve Krichten|
And now you know why the Emerald Cockroach Wasp zombifies her prey instead of paralyses it. It's so much easier if that thing can walk!
So now our doting mother must go on the hunt once more, probably sipping some more nectar for energy and respite from the terrible working conditions. She doesn't even get a pension! Once all her work is done, she simply dies and never sees her children grow and pay her back for the food and housing she provided them.
Meanwhile, in the burrow, the eggs hatch and a tiny grub wakes up to the sweet scent of food. They eat, they grow and they might even spend the winter months down there. Soon enough, they pupate and an adult Cicada Killer emerges.
It's the larva.
The Cicada Killer Wasp we see buzzing around is a mere accomplice, paralysing the Cicada and serving up the unmoving body to her children. It's the larva who does the killing, who eats the Cicada to death in the quiet, untroubled darkness of the burrow.
Be thankful that an over-excited child at a birthday party only gets really loud and annoying...