We’re getting ready to plant native grass seed in the side yard next to our patio. Pete dug up the last of the crabgrass and weeds last weekend and three cubic yards of leaf compost are being delivered on Saturday.
Over the past couple of days, we’ve noticed several holes in this area which have been dug up by something. This one shows it best:
Isn’t that weird? It’s about 1-2″ round and right next to the sidewalk. At first I thought: “Snake?” But wouldn’t it be in a more concealed place, like the grass? Pete wondered if it was from a cicada. The yearly cicadas are in full force right now in the neighborhood, but wouldn’t they be near a tree?
This morning we noticed a very large, wasp-like insect hovering around it, and then Pete said it went into the hole.
We think it may be a parasitic wasp, and if so, ew. Eww. Eeeewwww!!
I found this very eloquent passage from Wasps and Their Ways, written in 1900:
One of the largest in this country is a black creature with bands of yellow on the abdomen, the Sphecius speciosus. It digs burrows two feet or more long, and provisions them with the dog-day locust, or cicada. When her tunnel is ready, Madam Sphecius sallies forth, seeking whom she can conquer. Sitting on the branch of a tree the happy cicada fills the air with its shrill and continuous song, unsuspecting the awful fate that is to bring the unmelodious performance to an unnatural end. Suddenly the wasp pounces upon the singer, the song stops short, there is a tussle, in which both sometimes fall to the ground, but during which the poor cicada receives the fatal thrust. It is now the property of the wasp, who proceeds to bear home the booty.
What happens is that the wasp’s sting merely paralyzes the cicada. When she gets it to her lair, she lays her eggs on the insect, which, mind you, is still very much alive. The larvae hatch and then feed on the fresh cicada right there and then. Talk about breakfast in bed! Ick.
This hole is nowhere near a tree, however I’ve definitely seen crickets around. So if this is the work of a parasitic wasp, then I think some poor cricket is down there.
I don’t understand what purpose a parasitic insect would serve, other than to really gross me out. Does anyone out there know?