Subject: Most Curious
Geographic location of the bug: Andover, NJ
Time: 04:32 PM EDT
Wondering if you can shed some light on this. I found this very sluggish cicada on my deck this afternoon and while I was crouched a food away taking photos, I realized that it had some sort of small fly (or wasp?) on its head. I wonder if the fly/wasp is some sort of parasite? Have you seen anything like this?
The cicada seemed to be nearing the end of its life as I was able to pick it up and move it to a safer spot in the garden quite easily.
How you want your letter signed: Deborah E Bifulco
This is not a fly. It is a wasp and we suspect it is a parasitoid species of Braconid or Chalcid, though we do not know if any members of those family parasitize Cicadas, which means we have some interesting research ahead of us. Before we can do that research, we will be posting your images. We do want to forewarn you that we closely cropped one of your images to show the wasp better, and that cut off your signature. Of the Chalcids, BugGuide states: “most parasitize eggs or immature stages of other insects or arachnids” and “Some are used to control insect pests (Lepidoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera, Hemiptera).” Since Cicadas are in the order Hemiptera, it is possible that there might be a species, genus or family of Chalcids that preys upon Cicadas, but we have not been able to verify that at this time. It is also possible that there is no evolutionary relationship between the two insects in your image and your images document a chance encounter. We also found this BugGuide posting, but the larva appears to be Dipteran.
I actually wondered if it might be a wasp, so thanks for confirming. I did a quick bit of search on anything (other than cicada killars) that parasitize cicadas but didn’t turn anything up. Hopefully with your much more extensive network and knowledge base you can solve the mystery. And, of course, crop away – that goes for any images I send your way. I always appreciate you help very much.Very interesting. I wondered if it might be a chance encounter, but the wasp was on the cicada’s head for close to 2 minutes, moving around mostly between the eyes. I finally flicked it off with my finger. Fascinating stuff…