Ground Dwelling Black and Orange Flying Insect
Location: Central New York
July 22, 2011 10:46 am
Dear Bugman,
We have hundreds of these flying in our backyard. We started seeing them (in very small numbers a couple of years ago). The live in solitary holes, mounds of dirt around the holes, hover close to the ground, chase anyone who ventures near… Some have clear wings and some have orange wings. They’re between 1 1/2 inches and 2 inches long. The ’come out’ around mid July and last until sometime in August. At first we thought they cicada killers – because they carry bugs back to their lair; but they definitely don’t look like the pictures of c.killers I’ve seen. Can you tell me what these are?
Signature: Kitty

Swarming Cicada Killers

Hi Kitty,
These are most certainly Cicada Killers and we are very intrigued by the swarming behavior you are describing.  Since Cicada Killers are solitary wasps, they do not swarm in the same sense that honey bees or hornets swarm, but we imaging that they present a frightening picture because of their large size.  First, we understand that the aggressors are generally male Cicada Killers that are defending their territory while trying to lure prospective mates to nest in areas they are protecting.  Male Cicada Killers do not possess a stinger, so while they may dive bomb you, your pets, and even birds that enter the vicinity, they are perfectly harmless.  Female Cicada Killers do possess a stinger, but they are more interested in using it on Cicadas so that they can feed their brood.  We have not received a verified report of anyone being stung by a Cicada Killer though we imagine a female is quite capable of stinging.  You indicate that you have hundreds of them and that is most likely due to an increase in recent years of the number of Cicadas.  Insect populations tend to by cyclical.  We are very curious to know how this drama will play out.  Please keep us posted as to any developments.  We are positively thrilled with your photos that clearly show numerous Cicada Killers in close proximity to one another.

Swarming Cicada Killers


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Location: New York

8 Responses to Swarming Cicada Killers

  1. C Holt says:

    Although the Cicada Killers in this photo don’t look as big (long, round, fat) as the ones I saw swarming on 7/22/11, it looks like I found what I was looking for. Thanks!

  2. jamcms says:

    I observed this also in Cincinnati, OH at the California Woods Golf Course. There must have been literally thousands…around 7/16/11.

    • bugman says:

      We would imagine that the area around sand traps is prime nesting territory for Cicada Killers, and we also imagine that the owners of golf courses hire exterminators to eliminate Cicada Killers because golfers might fear getting stung.

  3. Talmaj says:

    i loved this post! I never would have thought of loikong at dead, dried up insects as a nature activity! But your explanation of the benefits for kids was compelling. One thought I had in response was that involving the kids in doing a simple line drawing of the critter might add to both their fun and their learning, since it enhances observation and also engages more senses. That way, when you next hear the cicadas buzzing in the trees and draw the kidsa! attention to it, you can send them to their drawings as a reminder of their past experience with its brethren!(I wish I could get a do-over and come back as YOUR kid!)

  4. Ashley says:

    I work at a sears in PA and their are at least 100 maybe more that fight over the small spot out side our MPU area. The past summers only a few were seen now their is a bunch swarming around this one area.

    • bugman says:

      Possibly a greater food supply of Cicadas last year prompted the spike in populations. Fewer Cicadas will mean fewer Cicada Killers the following year.

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