On this morning’s walk through south Oak Park, I got my first close look at a Cicada Killer Wasp for 2009:
Most of the Cicada Killer Wasps I’ve seen have been near burrows in bare soil, like in a construction site or at the edge of a playground sandpit. In fact, just yesterday I was scanning the Columbus Park golf course, looking for birds, when I spotted a Cicada Killer Wasp at the edge of a sand trap. Then I saw another — and another — and another — until I counted 25 Cicada Killers flying just above that sand trap. Then I looked at the next sand trap west and saw at least 25 more. (Now there’s a hazard that might scare even Tiger Woods!)
This wasp was behaving differently. It kept perching on the top of an 18-inch-tall plant, flying off when I tried to take its photo, then landing again as I pulled back. Once it hovered right in front of my face, looking me in the eye, before returning to its perch. This made me wonder — was this a male Cicada Killer guarding some sort of territory? If so, I’d never seen one of those before — but how could I tell for sure? I decided to check my photos for a stinger — I expected a female would have one, but a male would not. This is what I found:
I’ve seen really long stingers on dead Cicada Killers, but this one looked really short. What was going on?
I searched the web for answers and found some useful photos and a surprising fact (here). Female Cicada Killers can retract their long stingers inside their bodies, so you don’t always see stingers on live female wasps. However, male Cicada Killers have a pseudostinger — a fake stinger, one that doesn’t work — that you can see when they are alive.
So, it seems I really did see a male Cicada Killer in that south Oak Park garden. Next time I walk past there, I’ll look for females and burrows.
Here are some websites about Cicada Killer Wasps:
- Where Did Cicada Killer Wasps Dig Their Burrows? Our Kid’s Cicada Hunt website solves another Cicada Killer mystery. It includes this photo, the most linked to feature of the entire Salt the Sandbox website: