Unfortunately with all our rain, this photo doesn’t do justice to what’s really happening here.
Every year, for about a month or so, the timing of which seems to coordinate with the maturing of the periodic dog day cicadas, of course, eastern cicada killer wasps (sphecius speciosus)make tunnels (hence the large opening and the disturbed soil in the photo).
The cicada killer wasp is the largest wasp in my part of the world and it’s a fearsome looking creature. It looks pretty much like a giant hornet or yellow jacket–and when I say “giant” I am not kidding. They can be up to 2″ long (which doesn’t sound long until you are walking along and all of these wasps are burrowing and flying around at you!)
Despite their size, in general, they are gentle and non-stinging (although as with all stinging insects, if something happens to annoy them, they will defend themselves. The Spoiler once managed to get stung by a bumble bee! I wasn’t sure that was really possible. I now know it is.)
What these wasps are doing is making a tunnel nest for an egg. They then grab a cicada, take it down into the nest for the egg to eat when it hatches, and fly away. Nothing very scary. The whole process takes about a month.
Our cicada killers at this site have returned every year for decades and to the best of my knowledge, despite the building’s public use, no one has ever been stung.
There are lots more fun and interesting facts about our largest wasp (in North America, at least) at this site about Cicadas.
If you encounter them–or their tunnels–don’t be afraid. Just watch and enjoy.
Enjoy?! I can tell you right now that there is no way I would enjoy a two inch long wasp! I would be long gone!
They really are something beautiful to behold. And in all my years of walking by them, they have never been threatening in any way. But I can understand that folks might not appreciate them the way that I do.
I had never heard of these wasps before but now I will definitely pay attention, the next time I see a large black and yellow wasp. I usually have a “run first, observe later” reaction in case something is a yellowjacket, but now I will at least pause for a moment, lol.
They really are amazing–& not at all like those yellow jackets or hornets that sting without the least provocation, at least this time of year!