The hunter

My favorite insect in all the world.  A giant wasp.  Killer of behemoths.  Beautiful predator.  The hunter.

Male eastern cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perched on a leaf (2009_07_05_025991)

A colony of hundreds encircles my home, one so large as to dwarf by leaps and bounds the other four colonies within walking distance.

Male eastern cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perched on a leaf (2009_07_05_025999)

Gentle giants they are: beautiful, intimidating, leviathan creatures who have not a single malicious intent toward us simple apes.

Close-up of a male eastern cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perched on a leaf (2009_07_05_025997)

And for every dozen males leaping to and fro in the air, every territorial critter chasing anything that moves, a much larger female tends to the matter at hand: mate and multiply.

Male eastern cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perched on a cable box (20080609_06320)

The colonies stagger their lives across months, the first emerging from earthen slumber in June and the last in August, and each dies six to eight weeks later.

Male eastern cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perched on a leaf (2009_07_05_026001)

Yet in that small time they fill the world with beauty, with fear, with a spectacle no one can ignore.  For as I’ve always said, during the summer months I don’t need a large dog to keep my home safe.  I have gargantuan wasps instead!

Every hunter needs something to hunt, though.  Next: The hunted.

[photos are of male eastern cicada-killer wasps (Sphecius speciosus); the last photo was intentionally cross-processed; and no, I still do not have a macro lens, so I have to make do with technique instead of equipment]

4 thoughts on “The hunter”

  1. New neighbors moved in across the ground-floor entryway — a philosophy professor and her husband, moved here from LA, looked to be in their 30s. He was friendly and likable, but one day I came out and found him on the hunt with a can of insecticide. There were a kind of wasps that were building solitary nests between the slabs of shingle in the entryway. He was systematically wiping them out. He wasn’t allergic — but he was afraid of them! Like the tradition of a woman up on a chair when she sees a mouse. It hurt to see them killed, but I could not convince him that they were neighbors that I valued and that, if not molested, would return the courtesy. I have been stung by hornets in my life. It only happens when you accidentally disturb them. It hurts like being whipped. But unless you’re going to have a life-threatening allergic reaction, so what?

  2. Thank you, Marie! I love these little giants.

    Annie! So glad you’re here. The funny thing is that I’m deathly allergic to ant and wasp stings (and those of bees to a lesser degree). But despite knowing I could easily die, I respect them–and in return they respect me.

    (The only exception is a couple of paper wasp species who are generally unpredictable [read as: “They’re mean sons of bitches!”]. For that handful of wasps, I stop them from nesting around me by knocking down their pre-nest construction, but otherwise I leave them alone.)

    With all the different kinds of wasps who nest around my home, it sometimes feels like living in a minefield for someone with my allergy. Nevertheless, I’ve never been stung and I don’t fear being stung–unless I do something stupid. And I’ve never killed a single one of them (though my cats have dispatched individuals who got in the house).

  3. They are handsome critters. I remember being afraid of them when I was little, mostly because they had such a loud buzz with those big wings. Never really was threatened by one, though! It is fascinating to watch them grab other flyers out of the air. We don’t have anything so big and dramatic among our Willamette Valley insects…most buggy excitement I get is when the yellow jackets and baldies catch dragonflies.

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