Thursday, July 19, 2012

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 when I was feeling extraordinarily lazy, too, thus giving me something to post when I didn't feel much like 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, you could at least 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

[Cicada, not yet in imminent danger of being killed.]


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.)

When 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! Oooooh! Look! I think I see a cicada over there!"

He flies off to inspect 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 I see a cicada over there!"

He flies off to 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.

Alone.

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: The photo of the cicada came from Animal Planet. 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 Sarah wasn't a cicada, it then flew off to investigate a jeep.)



34 comments:

Daryl Edelstein said...

yuck .. not sure if that was my comment last time ..

Bill Yates said...

Sully, you really have a way with bug posts. I enjoyed it very much!

haphazardlife said...

Love this repost. Those are some cool dumb bugs there.

messymimi said...

My favorite kind of bug -- it doesn't chew on me or my house or my food.

Karen said...

Ok, now I've got the creepy crawlies. When I opened this and saw THE BUG, I closed my eyes and scrolled down to the comment section. I don't know what this post is about, and I really don't care. Just wanted to say hi :) Have a great day!

Tabor said...

I have seen these about and knew they were insect killers but not which insects. Since my SOL is afraid of cicadas, lord knows how he would react to seeing one of these!

Uncle Skip, said...

So actually they're cicada kidnappers?

Stephen Hayes said...

I've heard mention of cicadas but never really knew much about them, other than the sound which would be very hard to get used to if, like me, you come from a place that doesn't have them. Thanks for teaching me how to talk wasp. If I encounter one I'll be sure to refer to it as a chowderhead.

Craig said...

Hmmmm. . . they don't actually insert their eggs into the cicada, do they? 'Cuz then I'd know where they got the idea for Alien from. . .

But I probably said something like that the last time I commented on this post. . .

;)

And, @Stephen, that cicada noise is what makes you glad that there are such things as Cicada Killers. . .

joeh said...

It is only a re-run to old followers. THis post is GOLD! Had me laughing like a "Chowderhead" (btw recently been turned to the NE brand over Manhatten).

You obviously have not read your own post recently as you do in fact have a softball bat referance.

Michelle H. said...

Never knew what an actual cicada looked like. I hope there not as big as the picture makes them out to be.

Interesting thing I heard on one of the nature shows on tv. There is a certain type of ant that places it's offspring into the nest with the cicada killer egg. When the egg hatches and the larvae emerges to eat the dead cicada, the baby ant eats the cicada killer larvae.

Ami said...

Those ARE big, intimidating wasps.
:::shudder:::

One of 'my' kids can't say 'wasp', instead calling it a swap. I guess he can put letters together at least.

I have a soft spot for living creatures that aren't causing any harm. I will try waving wasps out windows and doors, will capture spiders and dump them outside, and have worked really hard to teach the children in my care to COME GET ME and I will take care of the bug.
:)

http://amimental.blogspot.com/2010/06/be-kind-to-your-eight-legged-friends.html

Suldog said...

Michelle - Damn ant! I've sort of taken a liking to the cicada killers and anything that eats them is my enemy!!!

Buck said...

Since we're into recycling I'll recycle my comment from two years ago:

(You, too, no doubt.)

NO doubt.

I have NO idea what the Hell I meant by that. (Not really, I do know.)

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

Cicada Killer WBAGNFARB or a garage band

Michelle H. said...

Nature's cycle ever spins round and round.

Jenny Woolf said...

I missed this first time round so it was all new and interesting to me. It probably would be interesting second time round, too.

But I am absolutely ASTONISHED to hear of these things which I have never heard anyone mention before. So if I ever get to Massachusetts, I will know not to panic if I see one, thanks to you.

Suldog said...

Jenny - I should point out that they aren't tremendously common here. As a matter of fact, the only time I've ever seen them is here at my office building. However, I'm glad that I could provide a service for your future traveling well-being and comfort!

Just Stuff From a Boomer said...

My husband calls wasps "spawn of the devil" but, frankly, I'm very glad I've never run into one of those giants even if they are harmless. They still have a freak out factor of 10!

This post was very interesting. I always enjoy learning new things.

Shammickite said...

I am breathing a huge sigh of relief that I have never run into one of those monsters. But I;m not green and I don't think I resemble a cicada, so I'm probably safe if I do.
Next time you recycle this post, I'd like to see a pic of the cicada being eaten by the wasp, OK?

Suldog said...

Shammickite - I wish I had a picture of one flying into its nest after capturing one. Every so often I'll be standing outside and see one flying toward the building carrying one. It's truly interesting. They fly straight into the hole in the ground without landing. They have to. If they landed, they'd either have to let go of the cicada or lose one of their own legs. The cicada is about as large as they are, so they have to grip it with all legs to carry it home!

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Do the Cicada Killers feel like they're kinda being pigeon-holed, so to speak? I mean, is that ALL they do? As a human, I don't think I'd want our entire species to be called "Onion Ring Eaters" or something. Sure, we all eat onion rings, but there's far more to us than that. Chili cheese fries, for example.

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

And what's with the "take out my softball bat and swat them into the street" comment? I think we all know you'd try to work a Cicada Killer walk. Let four fly right past you.

silly rabbit said...

I don't know which is worse... the cicada or the cicada killers! Being allergic to bees, the killers make me cringe big time. But I would probably like the killers better.

However, as a kid, visiting relatives in Texas, I experienced cicada for the only time. Holy moly what a racket! Then they leave their icky exoskeletons all over to look creepy.

Jeremy said...

I thought I had read all of your posts, but I guess I missed this one.

A female cicada killer would be a cool idea for a super villian, or hero I guess.

Suldog said...

Knucklehead - The "walk" thing? Heh. Best comment of the YEAR.

Boom Boom Larew said...

I still get excited every time I find a cicada shell. I've never seen the cicada killers... my older sister said they'd kill me if I ever got close to them so I've always lived in fear of them. (It's what older siblings do.) Thanks for setting the record straight!

Babs said...

Yuck, that's the second yuck I've seen within or heard about within a half hour..I wasn't lookin' for one either.

It is interesting though, the digging part.
If you've not ever been without the tv and only resort to your laptop to watch programs, which I have, go to the Smithsonian Channel...there are more things on their to thoroughly fascinate and disgust. :)
I too have a post I like to repeat, times approaching...

lime said...

ick, they give me the heebie jeebies, harmless or not! but the description of their dunderheadeness makes me think they ought to be flying around with little nerd glasses with tape on them.

Hilary said...

What an interesting insect. I'd never heard of them before reading about them here.. nor since for that matter. Cicadas are one of those sounds that I love simply because it's so representative of summer. These chowderheads must be quite the sight to see.

Jay Dot Rats said...

Sully,

These things infest the Cambridge Commons softball field every year. I call them "Mega Bees." You can almost slap a saddle on them and ride 'em around. Crazy! ~ Jay Dot Rats

Jeni said...

Boy, reading your re-run of the Cicada story makes me truly grateful to live where I do! Thankfully, we haven't been hit by any plague of these loud noisy bugs here, not this year and actually, not for several years now either. And trust me when I tell you this, I don't miss them one iota!

Ruby said...

Bugs always scare me but as a photography subject they are very interesting. Loved the bug conversation, Suldog :)

missing moments said...

It's always fun when I find a cicada shell. Never heard of the cicada killers!