GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Summer is cicada season. That means it’s also the season for the giant bug’s predator: the cicada killer wasp. But the Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the insect with the intimidating name is nothing to fear.
Yes, cicada killer wasps can grow to be more than an inch long, which sounds like a creature you’d find in the jungle or the Australian Outback. But they are found right here in Michigan.
“You may see these wasps while you’re outside this year and immediately think of the stories of giant murder hornets invading North America,” DNR game biologist Karen Cleveland said in a newsletter. “Don’t worry. This secretive native insect has been here all along, and can be found silencing cicadas across the entire eastern U.S.”
Unlike other wasps, only female “cicada killers” have stingers and only sting in self-defense. The males tend to be more aggressive and territorial, but alas, no stinger means no threat.
According to the Michigan State University Extension, female cicada killer wasps use their stingers to inject venom into their prey and then carry their meal back to their burrow.
“Each burrow includes several cells where larvae are raised. Each cell is furnished with at least one cicada and a single egg before being sealed off,” MSU Extension entomologist Howard Russell said in a blog post. “Female eggs are provisioned with two or three cicadas, while males only get one. As a result, male cicada killers are much smaller than the females.”
Russell says despite “their large size and impressive stinger,” humans can work among cicada killer wasps quite easily, even near burrows “as long as one remains considerate and respectful.”
“(Just) don’t try and catch one with (your) hands,” Russell said bluntly.
Just like the cicada, cicada killer wasps don’t live to see a second year. They die as the summer wanes. The eggs hatch in the late summer and stay buried in the soil over the winter. The larvae continue to mature in the spring and emerge from the soil between mid-June and early July to start the cycle all over again.