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Cicada

The song of cicadas in summer is so common many people do not notice the sound after a few days of the males singing to attract females. These insects are pretty harmless. However, there is a predator that focuses on killing cicadas.

Cicadas spend much of their life as immatures underground and emerge as adults generally in July and August. Depending on the species, a cicada life cycle is generally 2 to 5 years but can be 1 to 17 years. Cicadas have sucking mouthparts and feed on sap from many tree species including oak, cypress, willow, ash and maple. Plant damage from cicada feeding is generally not an issue.

Cicadas do have numerous natural predators including an insect commonly called a cicada killer (Sphecius sp.).  These insects are large (1/2 to 1 inch long) predatory wasps that focus on hunting cicadas to feed their grub-like larvae. They are solitary and make burrows in the ground to raise their young. Even though their appearance is fearsome, this wasp is not aggressive and does not guard it’s underground nest. Only the females have stingers and humans or animals are stung only when the insects are handled roughly. The males are territorial but since they lack stingers all they do is hover and act tough.

Cicada killers choose areas to dig their burrows that include loose, well drained soil. Several pounds of soil can be displaced causing issues in flower and vegetable, brick patios and walks laid in sand, playground or golf course sand traps. The wasps will be discouraged by disturbing the soil and regularly applying water. There is rarely a situation that would call for chemical controls.

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