Sit and Wait for Cicadas
News Category: Cicada Projects
Sit and Wait for Cicadas
I should of thought of this a long time ago. After studying these Cicada Killers for about a week or two, I have learned a whole lot about these cool insects. Instead of driving everywhere to try to obtain cicadas while they are molting, all I have to do is pull up a chair and wait for a female Cicada Killer to bring in a Cicada.
Today, I managed to wrestle away from female Cicada killers, three Tibicen lyricen cicadas. Two were male and one was a female. It was quite easy really. Here is how I did it:
Please Note: I do not endorse this method of obtaining Cicadas from Cicada Killers. If you try to use this method described, I will not be held responsible if you accidentally get stung!!
- I located several burrows that had female Cicada Killers still in them.
- I watched closely and waited until each flew off hunting for cicadas.
- Some did not fly off right away, they oriented themselves by making a series of low flights around their burrows just so they knew where it was in relation to other burrows. They eventually made wider and wider turns away from the burrows then flew back to them. They did this several times and then eventually, each flew off.
- When each one eventually left, I jammed a stick or two down the burrows' entrance. Sometimes I needed two sticks because the entrances were so large to allow the cicada to be dragged down.
- After about 1/2 hour to an hour some of the Cicada Killers came back to their burrows with cicadas. Some others didn't. The ones that did wondered what the heck happened to their entrances and struggled to get their cicadas down the burrow.
- During all the confusion, I grabbed cicadas by the wing tips and gently pulled them away from each Cicada Killer. Most were distressed by this and made a lot of mad "buzzing" type noices. But eventually they did let go. When I grabbed a cicada's wing tips, I didn't lift it above the ground but dragged it along the ground in the opposite direction that the Cicada Killer was pulling it almost like playing tug-of-war. You have to be quick because they can move fast with a cicada in their possession.
- I have also been successfull in gently batting the cicada away from Cicada Killers.
I did this on three separate occasions and nothing happened to me. Once I had a cicada however, I made sure I walked away from the burrow a good distance because a female Cicada Killer will stay for a while in order to locate the stolen cicada so I didn't let them see me with their stolen cicadas.
I am starting to believe that even though female Cicada Killers have stingers to sting cicadas, I don't think they want to sting humans, after all it would probably be a big waste of paralizing venom. They are very intimidating by their size though. Some female Cicada Killers can be in excess of two inches long. That's a big wasp.
Some interesting facts about Cicada Killers
- Despite common misconceptions, they do not sting and only the female has a true stinger in which to sting Cicadas. However, for this fact alone, I would still be very careful around female Cicada Killers.
- When a female Cicada Killer stings a cicada, it only paralizes the cicada and it is still very much alive. It will stay fresh for 10 days.
- When the female Cicada Killer is ready to lay an egg, it will lay it on the cicada in the burrow.
- When the Cicada Killer larva hatches, it will then eat the cicada while it is alive. Since it is paralized I'm sure it doesn't feel any pain.
- The sex of the Cicada Killer wasp is determined by the number of Cicadas the female Cicada Killer brings the larva to feed on. If the larva gets one Cicada, it will be a male. If the larva gets two cicadas it will be female.
- Female Cicada Killers are much bigger than male Cicada Killers.
The Tibicen lyricen Specimens Brought in by Cicada Killer Females
The above images are of the Cicadas brought in by the female Cicada Killers today. Their morphologies have been recorded and entered into a database. The specimens were then donated to Dr. Chuck Holliday of Lafayette College who is studying Cicadas that have been stung by Cicada Killers. Visit Dr. Holliday's Cicada Killers web site for some great information on Cicada Killers.
Other interesting observations
- The females are very clumsy fliers when burdened with a cicada. They do a lot of "crash landings". If you are in the way of their flight path, then they will crash into you because you are an obstacle that wasn't there when the female oriented itself to the location of its burrow.
- If they crash land short of their mark, females when burdened with a cicada will try to crawl up anything to try to gain height to fly off again. I observed this three times. The females crawled up my leg to get higher up in order to take off. This was very disconcerting in the beginning because I was afraid of being stung so I "batted them away.
- Females will fight over a cicada. One of the female cicada killers that I wrestled a cicada from actually tried to posses another female's cicada. Both of these females were crawling up my leg while wrestling with the cicada for possession. Again, I also found this very disconcerting and batted them away.
- Finally, only Tibicen lyricen cicadas were taken. Even though we have Tibicen lyricen and Tibicen canicularis here, the females were observed only in possession of Tibicen lyricen cicadas. I am assuming because they are bigger than Tibicen canicularis cicadas or perhaps they just couldn't find T. canicularis.
- I did an experiment where I had in my possession a dead Tibicen canicularis cicada, I placed it on my knee. Two females came close to the cicada but ultimately they didn't take it. I don't know if this was because it was either long dead or too small. I suspect probably because it wasn't fresh, I may have to do this again with a live specimen.
I was also able to obtain a female cicada killer. I feel a bit guilty about this but I'm sure I'll get over it. I want to see if the burrow that it made will be taken over by another female cicada killer.
I did notice as well that little black wasps were seen to inhabit some of the Cicada killers burrows once they were built.
Night Of The Cicadas
North Chelmsford - Today was an unusually hot day. So much so that the Cicadas were singing in full force. The sun went down today around 8:15pm but the Cicadas, both T. lyricen and T. canicularis sang well into 9:00 pm. I wonder if anyone else has experienced this?
Despite popular belief that the reason cicadas sing well after the sun goes down may be due to powerful lights shining on a tree or maybe disturbed by a predator (there is a difference between a male's alarm squawk as a result of predation and a true male singing for females) or perhaps due to unusually hot weather. Well, I can tell you it was the latter. The cicadas have sung well after the sun goes down. The only true Tibicen cicada that is notoreous for singing when the sun goes down is Tibicen auletes but I can tell you that we here in Massachusetts do not have this species.
Update 3/15/11: - After the writing of this article, I can tell you that Massachusetts does indeed have Tibicen auletes. This species is known to be on Martha's Vineyard and perhaps the Elizabeth Islands as well as small areas in Connecticut. In addition several other species of cicadas are known to call after the sun sets. Two southern and western species known as Tibicen pronotalis and Tibicen dealbatus.