9.02.2007

Even The Mighty Fall

Are you familiar with the wasps called Cicada Killers, Sphecius speciosus? They are solitary, nest in the ground and feed their larvae cicadas. Big, robust wasps, they measure about 50 mm (~2 inches) and are equipped with formidable mandibles and impressive stingers. I found this freshly dead one on the ground where it was in the process of being dismantled by some industrious ants which, by the way, are members of the same order as the cicada killer, Hymenoptera. After I snapped a few pictures, I placed the wasp back down on the ground so the ants could continue their work.
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6 comments:

Cathy said...

Dang. I don't think I could have held that critter - even expired. Nope.

So what dun 'em in?

(I do understand that they're not very aggressive with people)

Kevin said...

OUCH! That stinger looks vicious!

swamp4me said...

kevin,
roger that! I've never been stung by one and hope never to have that experience ;)

toshiyori_hito said...

Utterly unaggressive to people.
Love them things. My 9 year old
son stops people from attacking
them by sitting where they swarm -
the males use him as a perch.

(Took a while to convince him to
give it a try. I spent a while
doing it myself.)

swamp4me said...

t_h,
I find people are often unnecessarily fearful of anything with a stinger. Sometimes it is next to impossible to convince them that if they are calm around critters with stingers they are not likely to get stung. Bravo for you and your son!

toshiyori_hito said...

Hi Swamp4me,

You might point out to people who fear stingers that solitary wasps (in particular) are desperate to avoid a fight. If she's dead her direct genetic heritage is gone.

Even social bees/wasps are less aggressive in spring and summer, when their colonies are small. The loss of one of twenty bees in May is significant; by October, the loss of one in twenty thousand is not. They seem to know that; not ratiocination, just different pheromone levels(?)

Also, the term "bumblebee" is a corruption of "humble bee", a term more than 700 years old.

By the same token, you can often handle a giant hornet (Vespa crabbro) gently, and not get grief - their colonies are about 20-50 members strong. [They look like huge yellowjackets, but the black rings are a series of dots - not a solid stripe.] They can sting hard - persona experience: the cicada killer apparently doesn't pack any punch.

I'm sort of a fan of hymenoptera. People often get hysterical when they first see a large bald-faced hornet nest right next to where they live.

I ask "Do you think it showed up yesterday?"

"It must have - my husband passes within 3 feet when he mows the lawn, once a week all summer, and he (kids, dog, ...) haven't been stung."

"Perhaps they've been there all summer, and haven't picked a fight? Why would they start now?"

Not an easy sell.