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The Digger Wasp That Killed The Cicada

from Things To See In Springtime





Strange things are done in the realm of Mother Carey; strange things and cruel. At least so they seem to us, for we do not know the plan that is behind them. We know only that sometimes love must be cruel. I am going to tell you of a strange happening, that you may see any hot day in August. And this is how it came about.


At that meeting in the woods when the Cicada and the Katydid undertook to be musicians, while the birds were on strike, there was one strong insect who gave off an angry "Bizz, Bizz" that sounded like "Scab, Scab." That was the big yellow-and-black Digger Wasp, the biggest of the wasps, with a sting that is as bad as that of a baby rattlesnake. And that very day she declared war on the Cicada and his kind. The Katydids she could not touch, because the Wasp cannot see at night.


But the Cicada was easy to find. As soon as the day got hot, and that awful buzzing began in the trees, the Big Digger got her sting ready, and went booming along in the direction of the sound.


The Digger Wasp (life size) The Digger Wasp (life size)

Now Mother Carey had given the Cicada bright eyes and strong wings, and it was his own business to take care of himself; but he was so pleased with his music that he never saw the fierce Digger Wasp, till she charged on him. And before he could spread his wings, she had stabbed him through.


His song died away in a few shrieks, and then the Cicada lay still. But not dead, for the Digger had stuck her poison dagger into the nerve centre, so that he was paralyzed and helpless, but still living.


Now the Digger set about a plan. She wanted to get that Cicada body into her den, to feed her young ones with it. But the Cicada was bigger and heavier than she was, so that she could not carry it. However, she was bent on doing it, she got all ready, took tight hold with her claws, then swooped from the tree, flying as strongly as she could, till the weight of the Cicada brought her to the ground within fifty feet, while the den was fully a hundred feet away. But the Wasp dragged the Cicada up the trunk of another tree, then took another long sloping flight as before. One more climb and skid down, brought her to her den—a hole in a bank that she had dug out; that is why she is called the Digger Wasp. The passage was a foot long and had a crook in the middle. At the end was a round room an inch and a half high. Here the Digger left her victim's body and right on its breast, to one side, laid an egg.


This hatched in two or three days, and began to feed on the Cicada. In a week it had eaten the Cicada and grown to be a big fat grub. Then it spun a cocoon, and made itself into a bundle-baby, resting all autumn and all winter in that dark den.


But when the spring came with its glorious wakening up, great changes came over the bundle-baby of the Digger. It threw off the cocoon and its outer skin, and came forth from the gloom into the sunshine, a big strong Digger Wasp with a sting of its own, and a deadly feud with all screaming Cicadas. Although it never saw its mother, or got any lessons from her, it goes after the buzzing hotweather-bugs, when August comes, and treats them exactly as she did.







Next: How The Indian Summer Came

Previous: The Cicada And The Katydid



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