This is probably the most metal of all bugs in New England, mainly because it is a giant wasp with the word “killer” in its name. And yeah, like most other wasps it can sting you. According to one source, the females are supposed to have a nasty sting,¹ though another source says it feels like a pinprick.² Since I have never actually been stung by a cicada killer, I have no idea what the sting feels like; but it is a freaking huge wasp with a really badass name, so I really don’t want to know what the sting feels like. However, despite their ferocious appearance and inconsistent reports of the pain of the sting, they are apparently quite docile, and if you leave them alone, they will gladly return the favor. In fact, it actually takes quite a bit to piss them off,² and when bothered generally just like to fly away.²
These things are rather easy to identify, basically they are really big wasps – they grow up to two inches in length.² They also have a bold color pattern, black with yellow stripes, orange legs and orange wings.
They are active in summer;¹ which is the same time that thier prey, the cicada, is active. The cicada, by the way is a very noisy bug that feeds on plant juices³. Females hunt cicadas, sting them, which paralyzes them, then they fly them back to thier nest, which is usually a series of burrows.² In the burrows are one or two eggs each, and hatches into a grub.² The grub then feeds on the cicada (which is still alive!)² and then winter in the burrow, emerging as an adult the next summer.² Adults do not hibernate.²
¹ Dr. Arnett, Ross H. Jr. and Dr Jacques, Richard L. Jr.”Simon & Shuster’s Guide to Insects” entry 294 (no actual page number†) 1981. Simon & Shuster
² Author Unknown “Cicada Killer” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sphecius_speciosus 14Jun2016
³ Author Unknown “Cicada” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada 14Jun2016
Photo credit: Me