Tuesday, June 22, 2010
[In my continuing quest to recycle everything I've ever written, I am re-posting this piece which I've re-posted at least once before. It is pertinent because the creatures mentioned herein have, indeed, returned again. And just a tad earlier than usual, too, thus giving me something to post right when I feel like being lazy and not writing anything new, so if I knew of a treat to give them - aside from a Cicada - I'd be more than happy to do so as a way of showing my thanks. However, if you still have a problem with this being a re-run, just be thankful it's not about softball. Softball does get mentioned, in an off-hand sort of way, but no statistics or anything else will rear their ugly heads to intimidate the less mathematically inclined.]
RETURN OF THE CICADA KILLERS
The firm for which I work, Marketing Messages, is located in Newton, Massachusetts. At our building, we have a fascinating insect population for two months out of each year. Every July, the Cicada Killers come out to play.
If you've never encountered a Cicada Killer, you're missing something big. And I do mean BIG. They are the largest damned wasps I've ever seen. Here is a picture that provides some idea of their size.
And that doesn't really do them justice. When they're alive and flying around, they look bigger. Here's one standing next to a water pipe. The pipe segment is perhaps four inches long and an inch-and-a-half wide.
The thing about them, though, is that they appear dangerous, but are actually completely harmless.
(Unless you're a cicada, of course, in which case they will KILL YOU.)
The first time visitors to our building encounter these biplanes flying around near our entrance, they're likely to get frightened. You can't blame someone for feeling that way. These things are almost big enough to saddle, and most wasps would just as soon sting you as look at you. However, here is the thought process of your average Cicada Killer:
He flies up to within ten inches of your chest and looks you over.
He says, "Duh... are you a cicada? Doy... guess not! Ooooh, look! I think that's a cicada over there!"
He flies off to look at a big rock.
A minute or so later, he comes back to within ten inches of your chest. He looks you over again.
He says, "Duh... are you sure you're not a cicada? Doy... guess not! Ooooh, look! I think that's a cicada over there!"
He flies off to have a look at a Buick.
And so on.
After a while, you realize they won't harm you. So, you walk right through bunches of them hovering about, and you say, "Get out of my way, you chowderheads!" And then they do, because they want to see if that passing UPS truck might be a cicada.
Some folks in this building kill them. Why? I suppose because it makes them feel big or something. I can't imagine a less-thrilling sport than hunting these thick-as-a-brick creatures. I mean, they fly right up to within a foot of you, with no more guile or reticence than Paris Hilton. Where's the thrill in bringing your boot down on such a thing as that? Hell, if I took a softball bat out of my trunk at noon, I could swat them all out into the street by the time my lunch hour was over. Big deal.
I like to watch them, actually. They're amazingly industrious. When building a nest, they get down on the ground and dig dirt like a dog, throwing it out with their hind legs in prodigious amounts. For instance, I left work last night, not a sand mound of theirs in sight, and came in this morning and saw this...
That's about 7" x 7", a couple of inches high, and dug by ONE wasp. That's like you or me building a duplex in one night.
Using only our legs.
While taking time off to go up to passing tractor-trailers in hopes that they might be something good to eat.
Oh, one last thing (in case you didn't click on the link above and find this out already.) The Cicada Killer adults don't actually kill the cicadas. The females - since the males have no stinger - paralyze the cicadas and transport them back to their nests. Then they place the still-living-but-paralyzed cicadas in the nest with a new Cicada Killer egg. When the new one hatches, it eats the cicada.
Yuck! I'm mighty glad I'm not a cicada!
(You, too, no doubt.)
The Cicada Killers go away by the end of August, having finally caught cicadas and lain eggs (and whatever else they do during their brief lifespan - perhaps catch a Buffett concert or some other summery activity.) Anyway, if you run into some of them, just say, "Get out of my way, you chowderheads!"
(Unless you actually are a cicada, in which case you'll be toast.)
Soon, with more better stuff.
(Credits: I took the photo of the living wasp, while I stole the photo of the dead ones from this website. However, the photo of the dirt mound was taken by my former co-worker Sarah Colvin, who actually got down on the ground next to it and took the shot while the resident Cicada Killer was hovering within inches of her head trying to decide if she was something good to eat. After figuring out that she wasn't, it then flew off to investigate a jeep.)