Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cicadas and Their Killers

The Eastern cicada killer wasps (genus Sphecius) were in full force this fall. Here is the common annual cicada (genus Tibicen) along with its foe collected on our smallholding.

The cicada killer females build nest cells within tunnels which they burrow in the soil often working with other females. The females are often seen flitting about in search for their prey. Once located, they sting the cidada and paralyze it so that they can laboriously lug it back to their nest. Once in the nest cell, which is a branch off of the main tunnel, the female cidada killer will place an egg on the cidada and close off the nest cell with surrounding soil. In a few days, the egg will hatch a grub which will feed off of the cicada as it develops. In about two weeks, the larvae will come to maturity and will spend the winter in a cozy cocoon within the nest cell. In the spring, they pupate. Alas, the adults do not survive the winter.

What is quite intriguing is that an egg that contains a female cicada killer will receive 2 or 3 cicadas in its nest cell for feeding whilst an egg that contains a male cicada killer will receive only one cicada in its nest cell. This is because the female cicada killer is nearly twice as large as the male and thus requires more food whilst developing. Only God knows how the female can tell a male containing egg from a female containing egg.

I particularly enjoy the mellow background buzz of the morning cicada especially whilst working in the garden or elsewhere around the homestead.

P.S. My intent is to keep the journal entries relevant to the season at hand, however, I will occasionally make an exception.

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