Subject: Sooooo BIG
Geographic location of the bug: Titusville, NJ (Central NJ)
Time: 07:40 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi Bugman,
My husband caught this massive hornet-type thing around 2:30 pm. It was sunny, hot/humid, and right before a storm. It flew into our sunporch. What is it? Does it sting?
How you want your letter signed: Worried Mama
Dear Worried Mama,
This is a Cicada Killer, a solitary wasp that is not considered aggressive. Social Wasps will often sting to protect the nest, but female Cicada Killers use the stinger to paralyze Cicadas to provide food for her brood. Since your inquiry includes the information that your “husband caught” this Cicada Killer, and since it looks quite dead in your image, we are surmising that it was killed in the capture process. Cicada Killers are not aggressive, and though they are large and scary, they do not tend to bother people and stings would be a very rare occurrence that would probably only happen if a living Cicada Killer was carelessly handled. We have countless incidents on our site of Cicada Killers succumbing to Unnecessary Carnage.
Thank you for your quick reply! It was actually alive when he caught it, but I have begun collecting and mounting specimens that I find (it was dead in the photo – I froze it to kill it quickly and keep it intact for display). When I encountered it, it seemed aggressive, but since it was in a 15×10 room perhaps it was only looking for an exit..? Now that I know what it is, if I encounter another again I will not be quick with a kill.
Could you tell from the photo if it was male or female? I like to include as much information as possible with my specimens. …
Thank you again!!!
Amber Wilno (worried mama)
We are untagging the Unnecessary Carnage designation we originally attached to this posting. A large Wasp trapped in a small room likely appears quite intimidating when it is buzzing and striking against the glass window panes. We apologize, but we do not feel confident sexing your individual. We did try to research how to distinguish the sexes, and though we did not locate an easy reference, we do like this information we found on the University of Kentucky Entomology page: “Are cicada killers dangerous? Females have significant stingers which they plunge into cicadas to inject venom that paralyzes them. Without doubt, their stings are painful. However, 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.
The buzzing noise that the wasps make and the warning colors on their wings and bodies intimidate and discourage predators that see them as a large meal. When attacked, females will use their stinger to protect themselves.
Males lack stingers but are territorial. They will approach anything that enters “their area”, including walkers, people mowing or using weed-eaters, or riding tractors. They may hover and challenge trespassers but are harmless. That can be easy to forget when staring down a big wasp.”