Giant Cicada Killer Wasps in Westford
News Category: Cicada General Info
Giant Cicada Killer Wasps in Westford
5:00 pm - Pine Grove Cemetery, Westford - Man there are tons of Cicada Killer wasps here. It seems like every time I come back, there are more. I'm sitting right in the thick of them and again, they don't seem to be bothering me at all.
I have noticed many burrows (around 8) under bushes which are in the same proximity. The mounds that the female Cicada Killer creates are almost touching. I've also observed females entering and leaving. Is this normal for so many females to be so close to each other? All the pictures on the web that I have seen show only individual burrows. From what I have seen, many females have created a City of Burrows under these bushes.
The burrows are in an area where the ground slopes down to the bushes and there is mulch everywhere. Under the mulch is a bed of dried sand, almost like beach sand, this is what the Cicada Killers are digging into. The entrances to the burrows are facing towards the downward slope of the ground (see diagram).
Not only were there Cicada Killer burrows underneath the bushes but there also seemed to be Cicada Killer burrows to either side of the bushes underneath some ground-type ivy plant. These burrows seemed to be on flat land. I wish I knew the names of these bushes and ground plants but unfortunately, I'm no Horticulturist. I'll have to ask the boys at the Westford Town Cemetery department.
A Female's Work is Never Done.
I even managed to spot a Cicada Killer female digging a burrow. I was laying right on the ground 11 inches from it with males flying all around and above me I was right in their territory and I was fine. Man, what does it take to get stung I wonder? The thumnail to the left is a link to a bigger picture of a female Cicada killer using its hind legs to move a bunch of rocks out of the burrow. It will move these rocks all the way out to the edge of the sand pile and let them roll down the side, then it will run back into the burrow to dig out more (click on the two thumbnails below). It looks like Professor Chuck was right about how she uses those spurs on her hind legs to dig with.
I was going to post a boatload of pictures of this female digging its burrow, but instead I have opted to show a movie. Below is a three minute movie of a Cicada Killer female digging a burrow. I found this quite fascinating and I apologize for sounding like a dork. (I hate my voice when it's played back to me.) Enjoy the movie anyway. Just click the thumbnail to launch the movie.
I know! Maybe tomorrow, I'll try to snatch a few cicadas away from a female cicada killer as it brings them back to the burrow. Wouldn't that be cool? Instead of driving all over hell's creation to obtain cicadas I'll just wait here and have the Cicada Killers just bring me specimens! Ha! Wouldn't that be funny?
Two Cicada Killers caught at Pine Grove Cemetery
11:00 am - Pine Grove Cemetery, Westford - So, I have emailed a colleague of mine from New Zealand. He is sending some New Zealand Cicadas for study. We trade Cicadas often. I mentioned how I had discovered some Cicada Killers and asked if he was interested in having a few for study. Of course he was excited as he never seen a Cicada Killer "in the flesh" as it were. So my mission is to try and obtain some for him.
Slow and Easy, That's the Key.
I managed to catch two cicada killers today. One was on the ground and one was in a bush. I took a wide-mouthed mason jar and when the Cicada Killers landed on the ground, in super-lightning quick fashion, I tried to slam the jar opening over the cicada killer. But alas they were just too quick. They seemed to always be a split second ahead of me. After trying this for an hour, I decided to change my tactic. Instead of trying to go fast, I went very slow. This worked instantly. Maybe the Cicada Killers respond to quick movements and not slow and steady ones.
The two I caught are both approximately the same size. I read some of Professor Chuck Holliday's Cicada Killer web site and it states that Cicada Killers while in general the females are bigger than males, they can come in different sizes. This is my dilema, other than size and/or actually seeing a Cicada Killer either digging a burrow or with a Cicada (I assume those would be female) what other way can you tell gender?
So naturally I fire off a message to Professor Chuck and this was his response:
You can tell females from males by the large pair of spurs at the junction of tibia and tarsus on the last pair of legs on the females only. They also have one less segment in their antennae and abdomens than the males do, but this is harder to see. About 10% of females are in the males size range, but 90% are larger than males.
Females often dig their burrows under brush or overhanging steps, decks, etc.
I didn't notice any spurs on these specimens and they both seemed to have the same number of segments to their abdomens, so I am going to assume that these are males. I'll need to try to obtain a female some other time.