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Nature Notebook – Cicada Killer Wasps

Cicada killer wasp holeAre holes like this showing up in your lawn or garden? If so, you are hosting the next generation of cicada killer wasps.

The female wasps use their jaws and hind feet to construct their nursery burrows. They are quite particular about the siting of these burrows. They must be located in well-drained, light-textured soils…better for digging. They also need full sunlight…better for baby incubation. And, finally, they must be near a tree with cicadas…better for providing food for their babies.

One wasp can excavate several pounds of soil in a season. Each one of her several tunnels can be up to 70 inches long and may have 15 nursery chambers. Each of those chambers will contain a paralyzed cicada with a wasp egg deposited next to the puncture wound.

When the egg hatches in 3 days, the grub (larva) crawls into the cicada’s body through the wound opening. It feeds on the cicada for 10 days before spinning its pupa. It remains in the pupal stage through the winter. It will emerge as an adult in July and August at the same time that cicadas hatch.