The largest wasp species in North America at nearly an inch long, they look similar to the Asian Giant Hornet but these have a gentler disposition and are actually beneficial to mankind and nature.
Cicada Killer Wasp: The Not-So Killer Bee
The cicada killer wasp is a large wasp of the Central and North Americas, often reaching 20mm (approx. 1-inch) in length. They have been sited by people whom, at first glance swear that they what they saw was a hummingbird-sized bee! Cicada killer wasps are found from Central to North America all the way up to and into Canada and somewhat common in the southern United States where they are sometimes mistaken for another specie called the Asian Giant Hornet.
Asian Hornet in America
The giant Japanese wasps Suzumebachi or ’sparrow bee’ are an unwanted invasive eastern European specie. Sometimes also called “Tiger’s Head Wasp,” these large wasps can destroy an entire honeybee hive of many thousands of bees in just a matter of several hours.
Using just three or four ’soldiers’ whom wage a frontal attack against the hive, they kill every bee in the hive and then plunder the honey and eat the honeybee larvae.
The adult cicada killer wasps however, eat only nectar from flowers but the females also hunt cicada insects which they use to line the nest cells their yet unhatched brood of eggs. The cicada killer wasp lands upon a tree trunk or branch in a tree and stalks its prey, using the chirping vibrations of the cicada to locate the prey.
Cicada: Primary Food for the Cicada Killer Wasp Larvae
They pounce upon it and deliver the immobilizing sting. The now paralyzed cicada is flown away to their burrow lair and loaded into an underground ‘cell’ where several eggs have been laid. The cell is then sealed-up. These underground burrows of the cicada killer wasp have been found to contain as many as 16 such cells.
The eggs of the cicada killer wasp will hatch within a few days; the live cicada will serve as a food source for the hatchling larvae. The hatched larvae will consume the still live but paralyzed cicada for up to 10 days, depending upon the size of the cicada and the number of eggs in the particular cell. The cicada is reduced to a mere shell of inedible exoskeleton parts during this time. The larvae now enter the pupae stage where they spin a silken cocoon and over-winter within the cell, emerging the following spring as a fully-fledged adult.