Cicada Killer Wasp

I had an extraordinary encounter the other day when I was on my way to visit my usual wasp nest.  I heard a loud buzzing near me, and after looking around realized that right in front of me on the sidewalk I was witnessing a murder.  I had my camera in hand, but it was in manual mode and the wasp was moving so quickly that I could only snag a few shots.  This very large wasp, known as the Cicada Killer Wasp,  had stung and paralyzed its prey:  the poor victim you see being dragged on its back in the first shot.  I crouched down to get the shot, and before I knew it, the wasp had zoomed over to a nearby tree, where it made its way, fluttering its wings as it climbed, up to a branch out of my sight.  It all happened so quickly that I was happy to come away with any images at all.  I guess the wasp wanted some privacy to enjoy his kill.

I want to thank everyone who has been sticking with me over the past several days.  I’m so grateful for your comments and visits.  Later this week, I’m going to stop posting for a while.  I’ll be on vacation– where I’ll be taking lots of photographs, since I’ll be in the deep woods and on the coast:  great locations for macro mania–but this will give me the chance to spend some time catching up on all of your blogs during that time as well, something I’m looking forward to doing.  So, soon, you’ll see me roaming around your neck of the blogosphere.  In the meantime, thank you, thank you for all of your encouraging words and for taking the time to stop by.

41 responses

  1. Very cool thing to see. Have fun on your holiday, I’ll watch eagerly for your return with new pix.

    July 4, 2012 at 2:34 am

  2. Ooer…Fascinating photos.

    I’ve heard that some wasps do it to spiders too (and possibly anything they can get their stinger on..). They apparently lay an egg inside of the prey so that the hatchlings have breakfast when they emerge..!

    July 4, 2012 at 2:37 am

  3. Oh my! Cicadas seem like sitting ducks, they move so slowly. Terrific pic.

    July 4, 2012 at 6:12 am

    • Thank you, Elena. Yes, poor little Cicadas–they haven’t got a chance!

      July 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm

  4. very interesting couple of shots. And my best wishes for a wonderful, enjoyable vacation. I am sure that we too will benefit from your adventure, in stories and pictures.

    July 4, 2012 at 7:24 am

    • Thank you, Shimon, for your nice words and kind wishes. I’ll look forward to sharing my discoveries upon my return.

      July 5, 2012 at 4:34 pm

  5. johndjeevaratnam

    Like your photos, however the victim in the picture may not be a Cicada… I’m no expert though.

    July 4, 2012 at 8:29 am

  6. Astonishing shots ! The photos are good enough to show the wasp’s bionomics. And it showed how
    you were quick to capture the act, much more than how the wasp moved quick. (= tree bark was
    blared but the subjects were still sharp ! )
    Wasp themselves don’t eat the prey but lay a egg inside of only paralyzed body (hence it keeps fresh)
    for their hatched larvae to eat and grow. —– something surprised me most was that this wasp made
    their nest up on the tree, not dug a hole on the ground as many of this kind of wasps do.

    What so ever, go and have a wonderful vacation and come back with even more amazing shots !

    July 4, 2012 at 8:53 am

    • It’s really a fascinating phenomenon, how the wasps use the body of the cicada for their larvae. And, yes, I was very surprised that the wasp went up the tree, instead of heading off to a hole in the ground. I probably won’t have time before I leave to go back to check the tree, but maybe I’ll check it when I get back to see if anything is visible from below. Thank you so much for your input into my shots. I learn so much from what you share, and I know others do, too!

      July 5, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      • That tree might have rotten soft part. Once the chamber was closed, it’s impossible for us to find out,
        let alone to see any sign from below. That wasp looks really fearsome and big.
        Many years ago, a person was killed by a cousin of that wasp by receiving a sting to the back head cavity.

        July 5, 2012 at 4:26 pm

  7. Amazing shots…..have been enjoying the “up close” look at the insects in particular. Enjoy your blog break and vacation Melanie. I’m glad you’re taking your camera along (of course!!!)….RELAX and have some fun. Your stunning photography will be missed.

    Pam (and Sam!)

    July 4, 2012 at 10:27 am

  8. amazing sequence of an incredible encounter. well done! 🙂

    July 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm

  9. amazing

    July 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    • Thank you, Joanna, for your comments on my photos the last several days. I’m looking forward to catching up on your posts! 🙂

      July 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm

  10. myfullresearch

    The plot is becoming intriguing !
    What next ?

    July 4, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    • I can’t wait to find out! 🙂 There are always surprises where I’m headed for vacation.

      July 5, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      • myfullresearch


        July 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm

  11. Thank you for the beautiful drama, Melanie…and enjoy your rest. 🙂

    July 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    • Thank you, Scott. I’m looking forward to my trip. 🙂

      July 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      • You are welcome…and I’ll bet you are. 🙂

        July 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm

  12. Fascinating images again! There’s something extremely primal about the second one. Really looking forward to seeing your vacation shots.

    July 4, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    • Thanks, Richard. I can’t wait to see what I stumble upon in the woods. There’s always great treasure there. Looking forward to catching up on your posts! I took a sneak peek and see there’s some great stuff.

      July 5, 2012 at 1:32 pm

  13. Amazing shots, Melanie. Enjoy your time away and happy snapping!

    July 5, 2012 at 3:15 am

    • Thanks, Carissa! I can’t wait to see what I find! Always great stuff lurking in the woods. 😀

      July 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm

  14. Wow, that’s hardcore!

    July 5, 2012 at 3:35 am

  15. tu es arrivée au bon moment

    July 5, 2012 at 7:43 am

  16. WOW. Nature is violent. Shows no mercy. It always shocks me to see insects and other harmless-looking little critters behave so aggressively. I always shivered to see spiders trap prey too. Great shots. You have nerves of steel to have been able to capture these shots in manual mode. kudos, as they say. Have a wonderful trip. Is baby going along?

    July 6, 2012 at 4:15 am

    • Yes, no mercy is right. I can still hear the body of that poor cicada being dragged along the sidewalk.

      Sweet thing is coming along for sure. It’s a family trip to my parents in Maine, stopping off first to pick up some youngsters at my sister’s in Connecticut. We’re taking off in 45 minutes. This is my last message before we go. 🙂 Be good! 😉

      July 6, 2012 at 11:31 am

  17. Awesome shots Melanie!
    Perfect timing, and I like how you told the story 🙂

    July 6, 2012 at 4:58 am

  18. Yas

    Oh darn, the murderer managed to get away! xD
    Considering you had to move quickly, these are great photos. 😉

    I hope you enjoy your holidays! 🙂

    July 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm

  19. Poor cicada…………

    July 7, 2012 at 9:11 pm

  20. Simultaneous life and death, nature in the raw. Terrific timing to capture this drama, great shots Melanie!

    July 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm

  21. Cool shots and have a fun and productive vacation.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm

  22. Nature can be awesome. It can be hard sometimes to watch these insects kill each other, but the way their instincts tell them what to do and how to do it is amazing. I have encountered these wasps myself and it was the craziest thing I have ever seen. Awhile back I kept noticing this small pile of carpenter bee heads near my work van. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why and how they got there. Then one day I was walking to my van and noticed a carpenter bee amongst the flowers in my wife’s garden. Out of nowhere came this wasp and grabbed him, then he took the bee to a nearby tree branch right above my van. I watched in horror as he simply bit the head off the bee and flew away with the body.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:45 am

  23. wow….well seen and captured

    July 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

  24. Wow fantastic shots! You’d have to be a sharp shooter to have caught them, very impressed!! 🙂

    August 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I appreciate the kind words.

      August 5, 2012 at 7:11 pm

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