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(Updated with photo) Wild Sunday 8-31-08: Killer wasps or hornets?

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A week or so ago, faithful reader Chris Krzyston asked if I knew of the emergence of the Asian giant hornet in the Ottawa areas.

And I said, ah-ha, that's what those things are.

A few days earlier my 3-year-old and the neighbor's 3-year-old excitedly came to get me to show a huge wasp/hornet flying around the neighbor's porch.

I looked everywhere and could not figure out what they were. So I googled up images of the Asian giant hornet and that wasn't quite it either.

Fortunately, I knew Carl Strang loves bugs. His day job is naturalist for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. His love is bugs and insects.

And I sent him Chris' email.

Some of you can guess already what it most likely was, the rest of you will have to wait until the end to find out.

big hornet 015thekramersx

Here's a hint from Gail Kramer in Lockport, who were kind enough to send this photo Monday evening.

First Chris's e-mail.

``Are you aware of the emergence of the Asian Giant Hornet in the Ottawa, Il, area?

``I saw a special on the monsters a few weeks back on the Nat Geo channel. I was sure glad they were "over there", and not here in North America.

``Just yesterday during my work day in Naplate, a customer pointed out a number of dirt mounds in her yard. She told me about these "big Japanese wasps" that just showed up in the area. Her gardener told her what they were. Apparently, they have become widespread in the Naplate-Ottawa-Streator area, at the least. My customer told me that Home Hardware in Ottawa was sold-out of a powder to spread and kill the critters. She also told me about seeing one drag a locust down into it's hole. We laughed a bit, and I told her about the Nat Geo show I saw. I was SURE that these couldn't be the same.

``Then we saw one flying around the yard. It landed, and we sprayed it with a wasp spray. I moved it around with a stick to get a good look, and looked them up this morning on the web. My God, Dale, they sure look to be the same! 3" long, 3" wing span, orange head, striped torso.

``Have you heard anything about this?''



So here is Strang's response (with paragraphs added by me).

``I'm not familiar with the Asian species, but you are giving a very good description of our native cicada killer. That is a solitary wasp that specializes on feeding cicadas to its young. It digs a tunnel (and so is limited to areas with relatively soft soil; I'm not aware of any in clayey DuPage County ), paralyzes cicadas and lays its eggs on them, and the young develop down there to emerge the next year.


``It is a large wasp, and scary looking, but harmless as long as you don't grab it or mess with its tunnel. If the Asian species is really a hornet, it would be a colonial species rather than solitary, and would have no particular interest in cicadas.


``In parts of the eastern U.S. there is a large hornet, the European hornet, a bit larger than our own bald-faced hornet, which like the latter has colonial nests up in trees. I have not heard of this species in Illinois, but in any case it would not be carrying cicadas into tunnels dug in the ground.''

Gail e-mailed that the cicada killer was found in their pool on Monday.

An interesting photo is posted here.

(Added Monday)
Bill Anderson, the south suburban fisherman who runs the CatchPhotoRelease.com site focused on catch and release fishing, sent a note that he had a picture of a wasp his dog found in the yard two weeks ago. Click here.

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6 Comments

The insect your fisherman-friend found, is a Horntail, a very fascinating and very old insect. Too nice to be used as bait. It has a straight body without the typical waist a wasp has. I found my first horntail this year, I don't think that they are that common.

And I also found a Cicada Killer on my deck, which I could identify with your website. I also thought it was a hornet. If I am not mistaken, these huge wasps "swarm" around our library area here in Hastings on Hudson.
Can they be dangerous to humans?

Thanks!

I've never heard of a Horntail before, but after looking it up, that's exactly what it is.

It was not aggressive and didn't sting my dog when he had it in his mouth.

I found one of the cicada killer wasps in my backyard this past weekend. I was picking up in the yard and almost stepped on it barefoot. It scared me to death for a second until I realized that it was dead. My husband and I have never seen any wasp that big before. I'm glad that they aren't agressive to our family or the dogs, but we are keeping a close eye out for them for the rest of the summer. We're in the western suburbs of Chicago, so everyone should be aware that they are in our area.

The Wasp in the picture are called Ground Digger Wasps (Cicada Killer Wasps). I killed 28 of them today. They make large mounds of dirt in the ground when digging there nests. They ruin your lawn. I catch them with a small mess fishing net. It's fun.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on August 31, 2008 10:33 AM.

``Borrowed hooks & other looks:'' River launch issues was the previous entry in this blog.

Doves taking the dive? is the next entry in this blog.

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