Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Cicada Killer Wasp dragging its victim down a lamppost
Photo by Regina Alvarez

Last night, for the first time since June, not a single moth visited the Moth Tree. The end of the season is upon us, at least at the Moth Tree. We may bring a light to the Shakespeare Garden during the next week or two in hopes of attracting a few flower moths and loopers. There's a Monarch Chrysalid at the Model-boat Pond. Any day now a beautiful butterfly will emerge. The crickets and katydids are still singing throughout the park -- at least 5 different species.

But as summer turns to fall, so insect life diminishes. The days are getting shorter and cooler. Time to turn our attention elsewhere.

Last night, on the way out of the park, Jim Lewis and I found one last Cicada Nymph case. Today at least one last Cicada sang its loud, buzzy song in hope of attracting a mate. Earlier we'd watched numbers of the lovely green insects emerging from their ugly brown cases. Now, the cicada season is drawing to a close, and with it, the time of the Cicada Killer wasp.

This morning I remembered a report I'd written more than a month ago about these large wasps and their very specific prey. I'd forgotten to post it. Here it is.

August 12, 2006
Last night as three of the Moth gang headed for home, the humans rejoiced in the newly cool, crisp weather--a heat wave had just ended. Meanwhile the moths showed their invertebrate preferences by staying away from the Moth Tree. Frustrated, we stopped at Cedar Hill to check out the Cicadas and the Cicada Killer Wasps.

At the rock outcripping near the south end of the hill we found one active Cicada Killer nest. There was a fresh [i.e. dampish] mound of excavated soil at the entrance to a conspicuous hole. Peering into it with a bright flashlight [ my Surefire--the brightest I've ever had], we could see the beginning of the wasp's long tunnel.

We waited at the mound for two or three minutes and finally ...action. We saw a little movement at the hole entrance, and out came the wasp, rear-end first. As she came out she pushed out new soil from the excavation.. [Only the female wasps make the nest.]

When the tunnel is completed the Cicada Killer Wasp will lay her eggs in carefiully prepared cells deep underground. Then she'll go out hunting for a cicada. . She'll drag a living, though paralyzed Cicada down the tunnel to the nest. When the wasp larvae emerge they'll feed on the live cicada. Ugh!