Thursday, July 12, 2012

What are the Ethics of Killing Cicada Killers?

I love the sound of cicadas in the late summer and early fall. I haven't noticed their songs as much in recent years. Is it because of an overabundance of cicada killer wasps? Are they wiping out all the cicadas? Well, if they are, I found out an easy way to kill cicada killers - with a weed whacker. For some reason cicada killers attack the moving string on weed whackers, which instantly hurls the wounded wasps to the ground. I quickly finish the job by stomping on them with my shoe. I've killed about a dozen cicada killers in the past two days this way.

And I'm feeling guilty.

Am I upsetting the balance of Nature? Am I killing cicada killers unnecessarily? Should I allow cicada killers to live and kill cicadas? Or should I be the cicada killer killer?


MissMassSpec said...

Cicadas feed on trees. Therefore cicada killers are beneficial in that they control the cicada population. Cicada killers may seem like a pest since they burrow nests in garden soil and they're quite scary looking. However, they're gentle wasps. Males can't sting and females don't sting unless they're handled roughly. They don't defend their nests like other wasps. They seem to be very harmless. I have a few in my garden and they don't care about my presence. I even recorded one digging a nest and was about six inches away from it. I figure since they only last from about late June to early September I'd let them do their thing. They're pretty fascinating creatures once you take the time to learn about them. The female paralyzes the cicada with a sting and then carries it (about twice her size) back to her nest to lay her eggs in. The larvae feed on the cicada and then stay in cocoon through the winter. So you see the true pest here is the cicada. If there are a lot of cicada killers, that means there are a lot of cicadas destroying precious trees.

Bilbo said...


Yes, I've noticed that the cicada killers leave me alone. But they did attack the weed whacker. I'm curious whether they thought it was a cicada or another insect that was invading their territory.

I saw several cicada killers carrying helplessly paralyzed cicadas back to their nests last year. I felt very sorry for the cicadas.

I guess the important question is how big a menace to trees are cicadas? As you can tell from the above posts, there seems to be some debate about this.

There are some cicadas singing outside my home as I write this. I would miss hearing them.

MissMassSpec said...

The cicadas aren't going to disappear because you let a few cicada killers live. I think each cicada killer only uses a couple of cicadas to lay eggs in. Mother Nature won't let one population thrive for too long. If the cicada killer population gets out of hand and the cicadas start dwindling, the cicada killer's natural enemy will control the population eventually and the cicadas will return. This is why I try not to kill any creature. They're all doing a small part. If any population needs controlling, it's the human population. We do more harm than good on this earth. But that is a whole other mess :)

Bilbo said...

You're probably right, MMS. But it's difficult to watch and do nothing while the helpless, paralyzed cidadas are being carried upside down by their killers.

MissMassSpec said...

I kinda like the killer though. I think they're awesome :)

Bilbo said...

Yes, they are.