USA: not even wasps like Bush’s Secretary of State Rice

This video from the USA is called Cicada Killer Wasp tending her burrow.

In the USA, not even her own diplomats like George W. Bush‘s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

They are definitely not the only ones.

Associated Press reports:

‘Killer’ Wasps Menace State Department

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – As if the insurgency in Iraq and the fight against terrorism wasn’t enough, U.S. diplomats are now struggling with a new threat: menacing “killer” wasps that have infested areas around the State Department’s headquarters.

Large numbers of the fearsome looking insects, which can grow to about two inches, are congregating in the vicinity of State’s Harry S. Truman building and causing distress to employees, according to an internal memorandum obtained by The Associated Press.

These are ‘cicada killer’ wasps, which, despite their somewhat alarming appearance and name, are generally not aggressive and do not pose a threat to humans,” said the notice, which was distributed on Thursday in a bid to ease fears.

“Almost all of the wasps flying around the nesting areas are males, which typically do not sting unless disturbed during mating,” it says. “The female wasps prey on cicadas and are unlikely to bother passers-by unless directly threatened.”

The notice, which includes a photo of a typical wasp, points employees who have additional concerns to the Web site of the University of Kentucky entomology department for details about the cicada killers and their mating habits.

However, that Web site is unlikely to calm the diplomats’ nerves, inasmuch as it notes that both males and females will attack humans when bothered during mating season which runs through the summer months.

More Rice here.

Yellow jacket wasps: here. And here.

Big wasps’ nest in the Netherlands: here.

2 thoughts on “USA: not even wasps like Bush’s Secretary of State Rice

  1. Friday, July 13, 2007
    Story last updated at 10:27 am on 7/13/2007
    Cicadas Are Food Source For Young Wasps

    By: April Borders

    I was in Riverside Park last week listening to the summer concert band when I realized that the band was not the only group of musicians playing. The “tree musicians” fondly known as cicadas were playing a concert of their own. The trees were alive with the humming and buzzing of the cicadas – a small, stout-bodied, large-headed insect with sucking mouth parts.

    From June through September, adult males sit in treetops producing rhythmic ticks, buzzes or whines to attract females. These “songs” – weeee-oh, weeee-oh, weeee-oh, weeee-oh, weeee-oh, weeee-oh, weeee-oh – result from the vibration of their drum-like abdominal membranes (tymbals).

    From late afternoon to dark, the male Dog Day Harvestflies or Cicadas call from their perches in the trees to attract a mate. Starting in mid-summer and continuing for about two months these noisy insects hum their unmistakable “sign of the season”. This insect gets its name because it is seen and heard during the “dog days of summer,” when it is most hot.

    The Dogday Harvestfly or Cicada is black with green markings. It also has green wings which stretch over three inches when spread. The body of this cicada is a little over an inch long. The life cycle of this insect is very interesting. Many males get together to call the females. They do this from the tops of trees.

    Different species of cicadas can be recognized by differences in their songs, behavior and morphology. Males of each species make three distinct types of sound — courtship, disturbance and congregational, which varies according to daily weather fluctuations.

    After mating, the female cicada uses her ovipositor (pointy tube at the back of her abdomen) to cut open a twig. She then lays eggs inside the twig. One female lays from 200 to 600 eggs and such activity can sometimes injure ornamentals. The eggs hatch in about six weeks.

    Next is the nymph stage where the insect keeps eating and growing without becoming a pupa (resting stage, or cocoon). Once the nymph is born, it leaves the tree and burrows into the ground. Nymphs live underground for three years, sucking juices from tree roots.

    In the summer of their third year, the nymphs will crawl out of the ground and start climbing the tree. Partway up, the nymph will get rid of its exoskeleton (outer skin). It is now an adult Dogday Harvestflies which will soon sing its song and the cycle begins anew.

    Dogday Harvestflies (Cicada) don’t have a great impact on people. The Dog Day Cicada is also known as the Annual Cicada because the species may be seen every year. The length of time it spends underground varies from 2 to 5 years, so some emerge every summer.

    They are often confused with periodical cicadas (the ones that come out every 13 or 17 years). Periodical cicadas can do a lot of damage to trees and plants. While some people enjoy the noise Dogday Harvestflies make as a sound of summer others don’t care for it. However these insects are an important food source for animals we value, such as birds and snakes.

    Cicadas can hum pretty loud but exactly how loud can they get? Some have been measured at 100 decibels at 20 yards away, which is loud enough to be heard over a lawnmower!

    The cicada chorus serves to attract the females but the chorus also advertises his presence to predators also! And there are LOTS of predators of cicadas. Many species of birds enjoy the cicadas as a meal but there is another insect that is its natural predator, the Cicada Killer.

    The Cicada Killer is one of our largest wasps. It grows over one and a half inches long. Its head and thorax (front two body sections) are a rust color. The large abdomen (back section) is black and yellow, much like a yellow jacket. The Cicada Killer’s legs are yellowish and its wings are clear with an orangish-red tint.

    Cicada Killers are also seen by mid-summer. After mating, the female wasp digs a burrow about six inches deep in the soil. Inside the burrow, she will make several cells, or small oval-shaped chambers. You can usually tell a Cicada Killer’s burrow by the U-shaped dirt around the hole.

    Next, the female wasp hunts cicadas. Cicadas, such as the Dogday Harvestfly, are very important as a food source for young wasps. Once she finds one, she will sting it and paralyze the insect. Then the wasp will carry the cicada, which may weigh three times her own weight, back to the burrow. She will put the cicada in one of the cells and lay an egg on it. The female wasp will continue hunting cicadas until she has filled the cells of her burrow. Each cicada body gets its own egg.

    In two or three days, a wasp larva will hatch from the egg. The larva immediately begins eating the cicada. When the larva finishes the cicada, leaving only the outer shell (about two weeks), it will then spin a cocoon and hibernate until the following spring.

    In the spring, the larva will leave its cocoon and become a pupa (resting stage). From the pupa, an adult Cicada Killer will hatch. It will dig its way out of the ground and look for a mate. Male wasps die shortly after mating. Females die after laying all of their eggs.

    Cicada Killers are beneficial and helpful to people since they eat cicadas. High populations of cicadas can cause problems and they are pests when they eat trees and plants.

    Only the females have the ability to sting, and they only sting in defense if handled. Though these wasps are huge, they usually ignore people. Cicada killers are not dangerous but can be a nuisance, especially when they dig burrows in lawns, gardens, under a deck or near an often used door. Then removal is justified. Although Cicada Killers rarely sting humans, take precautions.

    If control is felt to be necessary, treat the burrows after dark to insure the female wasps are in their nests. The males normally roost on plants near the burrow sites. They can be captured with an insect net or knocked out of the air with a tennis racket during the day. Carbaryl (Sevin) can be used for control by placing the insecticide dust in and around the nest entrance during the night. The dust particles will adhere to the wasps as they come and go from the nest. After all activity has stopped, you can cover the nest opening with a shovelful of soil.

    If you ever have a chance, watch the cicada killers. You might be able to see them in action – it is a fascinating process.

    Now there is one more twist that goes with this whole story. The Cicada Killers have a natural predator too. It is the velvet ant. Velvet ants look like large hairy ants, but they are actually wasps. They differ from ants in having only a slight constriction between the thorax and abdomen and having straight rather than elbowed antennae. They may be seen in lawns or pastures, or occasionally wandering into buildings. These solitary wasps, as the name implies, are densely covered with short hair.

    The males have two pairs of transparent black wings. The females are wingless, and are sometimes confused with ants. (Ants, however, have elbowed antennae and a “hump” in the constriction between the thorax and abdomen.) Velvet ants are brightly colored. They are shades of yellow and brown or red and black.

    Velvet ants are not aggressive and will try to escape when encountered. The females have a long, needle-like stinger concealed at the tip of the abdomen which can inflict a very painful sting if handled. The name “Cow Killer Ant” was given to the velvet ant because of the reputation of the female’s sting. It is said that the sting is so painful that it could kill a cow. Many of the velvet ants can produce a squeaking sound when disturbed but their squeaks would hardly be heard over the painful screams, if the person stepping on the wasp was barefoot.

    Adult velvet ants feed on nectar and water. The immature stages are external parasites of wasp that nest in the ground like cicada killer wasp. Remember that the Cicada killer wasp dig burrows into the ground. The adult cicada killer wasp captures and paralyzes the cicadas and drags them into the underground burrow. The wasp lays an egg on the cicada and after it hatches, the cicada killer wasp larva uses the cicada as a food source.

    Here is where the velvet ant comes into the picture. After the developing cicada killer wasp have formed cocoons, the adult female velvet ants slip into the hole in the ground where the nest is located and lays eggs on the cocoon. The velvet ant larvae hatch and feed on, eventually killing, the developing wasp larvae. When it ready to become an adult, the velvet ant pupates inside the nest of the wasp where it will emerge the next season.

    Velvet ants do not cause damage and no chemical controls are need. Velvet ants should be left alone, but if you desire to control is them, make sure you have on a heavy-soled shoe before stepping on the insect!


  2. Pingback: New North American wasp species discoveries | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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