It’s that time of year again, poppets. The first ten days of June. The time frame during which eastern cicada-killer wasps (Sphecius speciosus) make their first appearance. The brief snippet from the year when my insect obsession bares its teeth.
And right on schedule, the first female showed up in the last few days, buzzing me several times as I stood on the patio. Always a female first, a leviathan who generates such a baritone hum as she flies that one would think a low-flying airplane was nearby.
Last year my nearest neighbors had only just moved in, and they faced this phenomenon with not too small a bit of obvious trepidation. I seem to remember some shrieking and running at first…
But experience and my own explanations have prepared them for it this year. They understand that, despite the menacing size and appearance of these wasps, the insects pose no threat. Their busying to and fro belies a gentle nature that borders on unbelievable, making these giants a dichotomy unto themselves.
All the local colonies have suffered an ongoing collapse these past four years. Where once a cloud of them surrounded my home, last year only a handful could be seen at any one time. But last year offered a rebounded cicada population lacking before. Did that help? Will the wasp colonies have recovered some of their previous gigantism? Only time will tell.
Though male cicadas began singing many weeks ago, their numbers this year remain low, at least thus far. This does not bode well for the emerging cicada killers. I watch with bated breath as more wasps emerge, the colonies reaching their maximum population in the next two weeks, after which a slow falling until, six weeks from now, they will be but a memory, a “remember when…” for this year and a subterranean hope for next year.
I will do my best to spend as much time as possible with them while they are around. I don’t know what it is about this species that so entrances me, so enamors me, but its undeniable machinations once again call me to observe, to enjoy, to study.
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Quite obviously: the title is a quote from Henry V by William Shakespeare.
Photo is of a male eastern cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perched in the photinia bushes that surround my patio.