Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Return Of Return Of The Cicada Killers

[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.]


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.)


Jazz said...

I somehow missed this the first two times around!

It's hysterical. Thanks. I needed a laugh this morning.

Everyday Goddess said...

Fascinating! I would be completely freaked out upon seeing one for the first time though.
Poor cicada, paralyzed waiting to be dinner!

heh heh, chowderhead, summertime buffet concert!

Sueann said...

Wow! Those wasps are amazing! And huge!!!! I am glad I am not a cicada!!
I had not read this post before so thanks for the re-post!

Buck said...

(You, too, no doubt.)

NO doubt.

lime said...

those are some seriously big ass bugs! glad i'm not a cicada

Michelle H. said...

I know you said they won't hurt people, but I have a healthy fear of wasps, and seeing something that big flying near me would send me screaming away. Anyway, with my luck, they probably would mistake me for a cicada.

Daryl said...

Yuck .. bugs .. hate them maybe more or equal to my feelings about baseball

Don't Bug Me! said...

This is much better than any dull post about baseball. Thanks.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

How ironic is that? I shot a video with absolutely no intention of posting it... but I have. Now I should warn everyone there's really no point in watching because there isn't much action.
BTW - I was going to say something about those things being as big as horseflies. I won't, because they're bigger... a lot bigger.

Anonymous said...

"...intimidate the less mathematically inclined."

That would be moi. *grin*

And cicadas freak me out! They are so dang loud.

*cue the heebeejeebies here*


Craig said...

So that's where they got the idea for Alien. . .

Unknown said...

They may be harmless, but I'm stll grossed out!

Anonymous said...

We have Mockingbirds in our backyard. They catch the wasps in mid air. Quite a site! They also go after Gaby, our cat, and that is not good. I have chased them away from her many times.

Suldog said...

Joan - Ah! You've answered a question for me, in a way. There has been a mockingbird hanging around in the trees near our building recently (perhaps more than one mockingbird, but I've never seen more than one at a time.) Now I know why!

fuzzbert_1999@yahoo.com said...

Very interesting!

Saz said...

l missed this too...l thought they wrent real and it was a joke..nah..scary


saz xmallutt

Ananda girl said...

I first saw cicadas in Texas and all the creepy shed skins scared the snot out of me. I was in 3rd grade. The third-grader in my head would have considered those big wasps to be very welcome company!

Suldog said...

Saz - They are known as locusts, in some locales.

Matt Conlon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Conlon said...

Good grief. do they sting at all? Must be like getting stabbed with a pencil.

OMG. Honest to god, my word verification is "sting". Here's a screenshot.

Eddie Bluelights said...

Must be American!! It's 'bigger and better than anything we have in UK!"

Gosh Jim, they are huge! Good job they are harmless.

Chris said...

I think the next time you start a new softball team, you should call it The Cicada Killers.

Just sayin'.

Amerc said...

eek! you're crazy! i have a nice family that camp in my back yard and they are super scary. cant use my lawn for a couple months due to them, specially nervous of my 23 month old. might not sting but when a male slams into you on the window your standing in front of trying to get to you, it is specially scary. the multiple stinger stuff is also quite scary. maybe this is a case of ignorance, i just would hate to get stung by these wasps on steroids.

Jeni said...

Well, they may be harmless enough but truth be told, I just don't like them -or any other bug, large or small -circling and hovering about my body! About 2, maybe 3 years back, we went to a Children's Fair down in a nearby town (Bellefonte) and the Cicadas were out in all their full splendor. Noisy! Very noisy and royal pains in the dupa as they interfered with everyone and anything. Any and all bugs that come within my range risk death if I have anything handy to do away with them. My theory and I'm sticking with it!!!

Carolina said...

I know the perfect present for your Cicada Killers. Glasses!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Hey, I guess I've finally arrived!! I actually remember this post!!! Woo Hoo! I'm part of the loyal fan club now for sure!!!! Loved this!!! They are incredibly huge...and fierce looking...I think that I would be a little leary of them in spite of the fact that they are supposedly "harmless" to all but the Cicadas...Sorry a bit late to visit...Absolutely overwhelmed with work right now...but better late than never, right? Hugs to you, my dear friend! Janine

Ericka said...

and here i just thought i was developing the ability to read your mind and know what the end of the post would say.

sigh. super powers still not developing, sadly.

Eddie Bluelights said...

You could have treid an experiement!
Introduce them to a colony of hornets ans stand back!

Unknown said...

Hadn't seen this one before. I am a non-lover of bugs, especially the flying kind no matter if they're harmless or not. But I still try not to kill too many of them when given the alternative. But I have no idea what a Cicada even is...must look that up!

I thought it was "chowdah head"? ;-)

Craver Vii said...

Scary looking, but they do seem less harmless when portrayed as a big oaf. I enjoyed this post, Jim.