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Cicada Killer nest observations


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While out searching for stag/ hercules beetles, I came across a seemingly aggressive cicada killer wasp. Upon closer examination, it was guarding several holes nearby, so I decided to stop and observe. It wasn't long before a female arrived with a cicada. The guard would fly up and check, then allow the wasp and prey to enter the nest. Before long, another wasp emerged and I suppose it was off to find a cicada as well. Some things I observed:


1) The male guard, at least during the hour I was observing, never entered or left the nest, but was very aggressive in warding off intruders from other wasps of all sorts to even taking up chasing some of the close passing birds.


2) There was a point where the guard seemed to couple with another wasp and they flew together like this, but not for very long, just under a minute. Perhaps he was fertilizing a female?


3) The guard did not stay the entire time. He would leave for short periods of time and then return. I assume he was going off to eat. I imagine trying to fly around almost continuously in 95+ F temps uses up fuel quickly. He did seem to land more on a post close by once he got used to my presence.


4) I wasn't aware of the size difference between the males and females until I observed it, and then looked it up. Some of the females that approached were quite large and I'd say 1/3 larger than the male guard mostly.


5) I thought there was just a single nest with the three or so holes I observed, but then I started noticing the wasps bringing cicadas into holes up to 15-20 feet away. Not sure if these nests were interconnected to the one I observed or not; the guard would not try and fight off the females bringing their prey into those holes, so I assume maybe they were connected underground.


All in all, a fascinating observation, more than making up for the disappointing beetle deficiency. The first time I ever saw these wasps was when I was about 10 years old. In the front yard, a mimosa tree was dying and leaking a lot of sap. Both the cicada killer and european hornet, along with plenty of butterflies, were attracted to the sap, and I talked my dad into catching a cicada killer since it seemed to be the largest wasp in the group. I kept it for a few days in a jar and then let it go.

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Pretty neat wasps. Just a couple of years ago, I had a lilac bush emitting sap from some pruning I did. Both the cicada killers and european hornets showed up to feast on the sap. I actually have some video of the small battles between both wasps to get at the sap.

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