The buzz of the Cicada's has returned to the trees. I love these big locusts. The sound of them is a song of summer to me. I remember plucking the crunchy abandoned locust shells off the gnarly bark of the trees in my grandmother's front yard and collecting them in a shoe box for Show and Tell in elemantary school. Officially, according to the Entymology Department at Iowa State University, this years chorus is officially known as Brood XIII. We last heard from their parents in 1990. While the song of the locusts buzz a continuous daily background to the close of my summer, all is not peaceful in the world of the locust. As is often the case when you navigate the world with multiple legs and red eyes,it is not easy being a bug. Having noticed plenty of these huge, menacing wasps hovering over my driveway and patio my ears perked when WHO-radio took a call from a listener on the subject this morning. I knew they were called Cicada Killers. Apparently there is a movement underway in the bug world to bestow them with a kinder, gentler name. Knowledge being power, I've done my research and heretofore I shall refer to these critters by their new name, Cicada Hawks. Seems weird to me. While they are big enough to be a bird, they are not a bird. However, with not a single class in entymology to my name, I defer to the folks educated in all things segmented and thoraxed. Cicada Hawks, they shall be. Perhaps you have ducked and run into the house just like me, when one of these Cicada Hawks buzzed your yard. Not to worry. They are docile, non-aggressive wasps and perfectly (sort of) harmless (depending on whether you are a non-threatening being of the human variety arriving home from work or if you are a Cicada Locust just winging your way through the neighborhood looking for a nice shade tree). Cicada Hawks reportedly are discriminating diners and human flesh just doesn't suit their taste. They are also dedicated parents and the whole nasty business of attacking my beloved Cicada Locusts is all in the name of healthy offspring. This is where it gets ugly. The Cicada Hawk stings the Cicada. This paralyzes the locust but does not kill it. Then, in a gesture that reminds me of some demented serial killer dragging his drugged victim through the night streets down into his subway lair.........the hawk drags the locust down into the ground and tucks it in near it's pupa (baby cicada hawks, in bug-worldese) where............I warned you it was going to get ugly......the babies will eventually eat the locust while it's still alive. Yikes. As with many horror stories, all this takes place underground so we can just pretend it's not happening and go on about our merry way. Just know that if you have Cicada Hawks buzzing about your flowers and bushes, there is some nasty business going on beneath your feet. The tragedy of it all is the life cycle of the Cicada Locust whom emerges from the ground ONLY once every 17 years. It seems to me a particularly unwelcoming sort of gesture that my yard would be filled with herds of their Cicada Hawk nemesis and especially ironic that instead of killing the locust, they simply sting them and drag them.........right back underground from whence they recently emerged. The whole seris of events reminds me of Season One of "24". Speaking of nasty...... In the spirit of National Geographic nature specials, killing cicada's isn't the ONLY thing Cicada Hawks do. For more fascinating (seriously, it's a GREAT site) photos and info on bugs, check out www.whatsthatbug.com where they honored the Cicada Killer....er, Hawk....by naming it July 2007's Bug of the Month.
I had hoped to add a video clip to this post but the dance between me and technology is an awkward one. We have yet to find synchronicity or grace in our relationship.
I'll continue to practice. In the meantime, check out the clip at this web address, I found it completely by accident when searching for info on cicadas and it made me laugh out loud. It's really great. http://campjinx.pictureshowfilms.com/index.php/archives/225