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Cicada Killers
July 25, 2016

I so enjoy the blooms this time of year, don't you?

And the color combinations can be breath taking, and pretty much limited to your imagination.

Pictured at the bottom are a couple pictures of Akita on a pillow.

It's no big deal, except this is something she does.

As a puppy, I would place her on a little pillow near the fireplace.

Since then, wherever there is a pillow to be had (any kind), she will find it and lay on it, as if it is hers.

That was more than 10 years ago and still the pillow fetish continues.

This has been some stretch of heat.

Michigan hasn't experienced this heat for a few years.

Through in the humidity, and it becomes oppressive.

Breathing becomes more difficult in the hot air.

Air expands in the heat (contracts in the cold).

Which means less oxygen in every breath, so we seem to labor a bit.

This past week was filled with Yolanda appointments, once again.

Orthoseat, to get fitted and order her new wheelchair (there will be at least two more appointments for this).

An appointment to set up an appointment for her to get 'Botox' shots next month in an attempt to improve leg muscle/nerves.

A Dr.s appointment to get her ears flushed.

Then an appointment to have X-rays taken of her right hip and left ankle, as the new PT. is wondering is some joints aren't dislocated.

What else are we to do in this heat?

(Ornamental Grass in Bloom.)

Later this week week Karen and I take a few days off for ourselves.

From Thursday the 28th, to sometime August 1 or 2, we will be at the Bed and Breakfast in Petoskey, MI.

This is the only real time Karen and I have together, without Yolanda (Lord willing).

She will be staying at Hope Network, where they take good care of her.

Yes, the same facility where she goes M.-F. for therapy, and real life classes.

This is to let you know, or remind you, I will not be here to answer email, and to let you know there will be No Newsletter for the first week of August.

I simply won't have time.

I will however, be back the following week (August 8).

You hear them this time of year.

Growing up in rural Michigan, we called them 'Heat Bugs'.

More commonly know as Cicada's also called Annual cicadas.

This letter isn't about the Cicada, but one of the creatures that hunt them down.

Rarely seen, but always heard when the heat of summer kicks in.


Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp (Sphecius speciosus):

Often simply referred to as the cicada killer or the cicada hawk.

Cicada killers are large, solitary wasps.

Because I know of this species, I am writing on the Eastern wasp.

However, there are multiple species of cicada killers related to the eastern wasp throughout North America.

This species occurs in the eastern and Midwest (U.S.), and southwards into Mexico and Central America.

They are so named because they hunt cicadas and provision their nests with them.

In some local regions they are sometimes called sand hornets, although they are not hornets.

Cicada killers exert a measure of natural control on cicada populations and thus may directly benefit the deciduous trees upon which their cicada prey feed.

Adult Cicada-killer wasps are large, 1.5 to 2.0 inches long (3-5 cm),

Impressive indeed.

A robust wasp with hairy, reddish and black areas on the thorax (middle part), and are black to reddish brown marked with light yellow stripes on the abdominal (rear) segments.

The wings are brown.

The females are somewhat larger than the males, and both are among the largest wasps seen in the Eastern United States.

Their unusual size giving them a uniquely fearsome appearance.

Often causing instant fear and panic among people who don't know a thing about the species.

A few years back, we had neighbors (since has moved) that had some burrows and wasp action near his driveway.

He asked what they were, I explained and reminded him they were harmless.

It didn't matter, he made sure her sprayed and killed them off.

I digress.

Solitary wasps (much like Mason bees), are very different in their behavior from the social wasps such as hornets, yellow jackets, and paper wasps.

Cicada killer females use their sting to paralyze their prey (cicadas) rather than to defend their nests.

Unlike most social wasps and bees, these gentle giants do not attempt to sting unless handled roughly or stepped on.

Adults feed on flower nectar and other plant saps.

Adults emerge in summer, typically beginning around late June or early July and die off in September or October.

And this is why you may see then right now (same time you hear cicadas).

They are present in a given area for 60 to 75 days, usually until mid-September.

The large females are commonly seen skimming around lawns seeking good sites to dig burrows and searching for cicadas in trees and taller shrubs.

The males are more often seen in groups, vigorously challenging one another for position on the breeding aggregation from which they emerged, and generally investigate anything that moves or flies near them.

It is not unusual to see two or three male wasps locked together in apparent midair combat, the aggregate adopting an erratic flight path until one of the wasps breaks away.

The male wasp's aggressive behavior is similar to that of the male carpenter bee.

In both cases, while the males' vigorous territorial defense can be frightening and intimidating to human passersby, the males pose no danger whatsoever.

Male cicada killers will only grapple with other insects, and cannot sting.

This is good to know, so you won't attempt to kill them off.

As you can see by these pictures, the ground-burrowing wasp may be found in well-drained, sandy soils to loose clay in bare or grass-covered banks, berms and hills as well as next to raised sidewalks, driveways and patio slabs.

Females may share a burrow, digging their own nest cells off the main tunnel.

You may also see multiple burrows in one spot.

A typical burrow is 10–20 inches deep (25-50 cm) and about .6 inch (1.5 cm) wide.

In digging a burrow, the female dislodges the soil with her jaws and, using her hind legs, pushes loose soil behind her as she backs out of the burrow.

Her hind legs are equipped with special spines that help her push the dirt behind her.

The excess soil pushed out of the burrow forms a mound with a trench through it at the burrow entrance.

After digging a nest chamber in the burrow, female cicada killer wasp will capture cicadas, paralyzing them with a sting.

Females have significant stingers which they plunge into cicadas to inject venom that paralyzes them.

Without doubt, their stings are painful.

I repeat once again, they are not aggressive and do not have nest-guarding instinct of honey bees and hornets.

You can walk through areas where they are active without attracting attention (I did taking these pictures).

After paralyzing a cicada, the female wasp holds it upside down beneath her and takes off toward her burrow.

This return flight to the burrow is difficult for the wasp because the cicada is often more than twice her weight.

(This one picture of wasp with cicada is courtesy of the University of Kentucky.)

After putting one or more cicadas in her nest cell, the female deposits an egg on a cicada and closes the cell with dirt.

Male eggs are laid on a single cicada but female eggs are given two or sometimes three cicadas; this is because the female wasp is twice as large as the male and must have more food.

Amazing how God has given these insects that know how.

New nest cells are dug as necessary off of the main burrow tunnel and a single burrow may eventually have 10 or more nest cells.

The egg hatches in one or two days, and the cicadas serve as food for the grub.

The larvae complete their development in about 2 weeks.

Overwintering occurs as a mature larva within an earth-coated cocoon.

Pupation occurs in the nest cell in the spring and lasts 25 to 30 days.

There is only one generation per year and no adults overwinter.

Large aggregations of cicada killers can build up over time when conditions are favorable.

(Notice several sand mounds along walkway and parking lot at my church.)

Don't panic.

The cycle renews itself as we enjoy another bit of Nature.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

“It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.”

Herodotus ,Greek Historian

Cowardliness, and fears cripple our abilities

Boldness and courage move us forward.

"Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you,

for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,

Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

Isaiah 41:10

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear,

but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

2 Timothy 1:7

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed,
arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority,
lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued,

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope,
serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy,
generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
The same fight is going on inside you –
and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute
and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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