Field of Science

Hot weather predator-prey relationships

As mentioned in a recent blog, by definition our summer begins, at least in terms of hot weather, when the cicadas begin to sing.  So far the singing is not the deafening roar it sometimes becomes, but cicada season is definitely upon us in total conjunction with the hot, dry weather.  Of course, shortly after the cicadas appear, so do the cicada-killers, the largest of the digger wasps.  In spite of the fact that they can act rather aggressively, the females who prey upon cicadas seldom sting humans and the males are sting less.  Cicada killers love dry, sandy soil because those are the conditions best for digging their nests.  So what is bad for the plants is good for the cicada-killers, and boy, are we harboring a population of these very specialized predators!  Unfortunately a choice area for cicada-killer nests is near our new pergola, so as you approach you get buzzed, aggressively confronted, by a 3-4 cm long wasp, which, in spite of our great size advantage, is pretty intimidating, and no matter how often you think humans seldom get stung, you tend to react with those well refined primate behaviors to avoid yellow and black buzzy things.  Avoidance, in general is a good behavior, so let's not sell it short just because our knowledge of natural history tells us there is no reason to run unless you are a cicada.  However, Mrs. Phactor is no one to mess with if your are a black & yellow buzzy beast, so if they know what's good for them, avoidance would be a good behavior because if her enjoyment of this new pergola is reduced by buzzy behavior of nesting cicada-killers, they would be well to look elsewhere for a nesting site.  But another possibility exists.  Are these some type of super, double-secret miniature drone designed to instigate panic in human behavior?  Were those little antennas?  And right here in middle America; what gall!  Remember, you heard this first here, but quiet, we don't want homeland security to be trampling the gardens.  The image is from Bill Bucanhan of the US Fish and Wildlife Service; the Phactor was not going to get close enough to photograph one.

1 comment:

Randy Emmitt said...

Enjoyed your article on Cicada Killers. My first experience with them was in some footers I dug for a big deck I was building. Four CK holes in one footer and 2 in another. We were waiting for inspection to pour concrete.

Not sure you'll see this comment as your word verification is awful, I can not read the first word.