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Species Sphecius speciosus - Eastern Cicada-killer Wasp

Cicada's worst nightmare - Sphecius speciosus Hangin' around: cicada killers - Sphecius speciosus - male - female Some type of wasp? - Sphecius speciosus Eastern Cicada Killer? - Sphecius speciosus Cicada Killer 2 - Sphecius speciosus - female Cicada Killer with prey - Sphecius speciosus - female CU-Davis Linscott #12 - Sphecius speciosus Pennsylvania Wasp  - Sphecius speciosus
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies)
No Taxon (Aculeata - Ants, Bees and Stinging Wasps)
No Taxon (Apoid Wasps (Apoidea)- traditional Sphecidae)
Family Crabronidae
Subfamily Bembicinae
Tribe Bembicini (Sand Wasps)
Subtribe Spheciina
Genus Sphecius (Cicada-killer Wasps)
Species speciosus (Eastern Cicada-killer Wasp)
Other Common Names
Giant Cicada Killer
Explanation of Names
Sphecius speciosus (Drury 1773)
speciosus = 'showy, beautiful'
30-40 mm, one of the largest North American wasps
A very large wasp with distinctive pattern and behavior.
e. US to NM (NM-FL-ON-SD) / ne. Mex. - Map (1)(GBIF)
forest edges, gardens, waste places; nests in the ground(2)
mostly: June-Sept (BG data)
Adults eat very little, nectar from flowers. Larvae eat cicadas.
Life Cycle
Females catch and paralyze cicadas, often in flight. Known to take members of at least five genera: Diceroprocta, Magicicada, Neocicada, Quesada, and Tibicen, the last being a favorite (Encyclopedia of Life). If the capture is made low or on the ground, the female may climb a tree to use as a launching point to fly towards nest; if no tree available, the prey is dragged(3). Nest tunnels (typically ~15 cm deep, with a branch of similar length) are dug in areas of bare soil. Several females may cooperate in digging a tunnel, which will have 2-3 cells at the end(4). Burrow entrance is large, 2-3 cm, with a prominent mound of excavated soil adjacent(5). One or two cicadas are placed in each cell, and an egg is laid on the last one placed (4). In 2-3 days after egg laying, a larva will hatch and begin eating the cicada, leaving an outer shell only within about two weeks; the larva will then spin a cocoon and hibernate. In the spring, the larva will leave its cocoon and pupate. The adult will dig its way out of the ground and look for a mate. Males die shortly after mating. Females die after laying all of their eggs.
Males emerge earlier than females and defend territories, typically 1 square meter or so of bare soil near their emergence hole. They usually perch on the ground and may occupy these territories for up to 12 days. They pursue receptive females that fly through the area. Rival males are attacked aggressively(6)
Images showing various aspects of behavior and life cycle (male on territory, mating, prey capture, burrows, feeding on nectar):
Though fearsome in appearance, and armed with a powerful sting, females rarely sting humans. Males have a "pseudo-stinger", a projection of the last abdominal sternite, and may jab with it(7), but lack venom
See Also
Vespa crabro
Stizus brevipennis
Internet References
Featured Creatures - Stange 2012(8)
Holliday, C.W., and J.R. Coelho. 2006. Improved Key to New World Species of Sphecius (Hymenoptera: Crabronidae). Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 99(5): 793-798.
Works Cited
1.Improved key to New World species of Sphecius (Hymenoptera: Crabronidae)
Holliday C.W., Coelho J.R. 2006. Ann. Ent. Soc. Am. 99: 793-798.
2.A Field Guide to Insects
Richard E. White, Donald J. Borror, Roger Tory Peterson. 1998. Houghton Mifflin Co.
3.The Common Insects of North America
Lester A. Swan, Charles S. Papp. 1972. Harper & Row.
4.National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders
Lorus and Margery Milne. 1980. Knopf.
5.Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates
Charley Eiseman & Noah Charney. 2010. Stackpole Books.
6.Solitary Wasps: Behavior and Natural History (Cornell Series in Arthropod Biology)
Kevin M. O'Neill. 2000. Comstock Publishing.
7.The Wasps
Howard Ensign Evans, Mary Jane West Eberhard. 1970. University of Michigan Press.
8.University of Florida: Featured Creatures