Cady Killers

Those of you who have read this blog for awhile know that I hate spiders. I have a new enemy now – cady killers, more formally known as “cicada killing wasps.”

Evidence of cady killers

My husband thought he found evidence of termites in our backyard a couple of weeks ago – holes under the concrete pad of our dog run, with piles of chewed up soil surrounding the holes.  Our last dog, Sara, a 14½-year-old wolfhound mix, died in January. The dog run has been empty ever since. Al just happened to walk through it and spied the piles.

So we had the Orkin man out last week. He said there is no evidence of termites. What we have are cady killers.

I’d never heard of these pests before – yet another Midwestern bug unknown to this Western girl. I also didn’t know about cicadas until moving to the Midwest. But cicadas and cady killers are not nearly as benevolent or beautiful as the fireflies I discovered in Missouri.

Cicada Killer. Sphecius speciosus. Purdue University
fcps.edu

Cady killers are actually kind of pretty, and are one of the largest wasps in the Midwest. They supposedly live alone, not in colonies. If that’s the case, our dog run must be a condominium complex for wasps, because we have burrows on the three exposed sides of the concrete slab. And given that each wasp’s burrow can be 24 inches long, we must have some pretty fancy insect digs under our dog run.

As one might assume, cady killers kill cicadas. They live in the ground, typically burrowing under concrete pads like ours. They lay their eggs in their burrows, according to our Orkin man. Then they paralyze the cicadas and move their victims into their nests for the baby wasps to eat.

Now I’m not particularly fond of cicadas, which make a lot of noise and are crunchy when you step on them.  One year – the year that both the 13-year and 17-year cicadas were prevalent – my family was preparing for a long mountain hike. Our practice hike was around Perry Lake near Topeka, and took place in the summer heat right after both varieties of cicadas reached maturity. We could barely hear each other over their din, and my daughter was completely grossed out as she walked over dead cicadas in her new hiking boots.

Despite the ickiness of cicadas, I’m not sure I like the idea of wasps feeding them to their young in my backyard. But this does explain the feebly flopping cicadas I’ve noticed on a couple of occasions this summer. And also the big wasps I’ve seen buzzing around.

Orkin tells me the wasps are aggressive. Don’t worry, I’m not about to kill them myself. I’ll wait for Orkin to do it for me. I’m told it takes two treatments.

As this post goes live, the Orkin folks will be at our house for the first cady killer treatment. I’ll let you know whether Orkin is successful in eradicating the pests.

Summer in the Midwest . . . isn’t it sweet? Or is that sweat?

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0 Comments

  1. Theresa, this is the first time in my long life in Missouri that I’ve ever heard of Cady Killers. At first I thought it was a gang on the Oregon Trail that killed settlers. Then I read the piece.

    How awful, but they play some part in the great scheme of things I’m sure. The cicadas have been especially noisy the last week or so which means the wasps either haven’t been very busy hunting them or the wasps will have lots to feed their young ones.

    The circle of life: eat and be eaten.

    • Bob, if you haven’t heard of cady killers before, then I don’t feel so ignorant. Actually, my husband, also a Missouri native, hadn’t heard of them before either.
      Theresa

  2. Theresa, this is the first time in my long life in Missouri that I’ve ever heard of Cady Killers. At first I thought it was a gang on the Oregon Trail that killed settlers. Then I read the piece.

    How awful, but they play some part in the great scheme of things I’m sure. The cicadas have been especially noisy the last week or so which means the wasps either haven’t been very busy hunting them or the wasps will have lots to feed their young ones.

    The circle of life: eat and be eaten.

    • Bob, if you haven’t heard of cady killers before, then I don’t feel so ignorant. Actually, my husband, also a Missouri native, hadn’t heard of them before either.
      Theresa

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