This is the first weekly Extension Lines article that I will write as the first Region 6 Extension Education Director. This position was created as part of the restructuring of Iowa State University (ISU) Extension. Region 6 includes Buena Vista, Calhoun, Cherokee, Ida, Pocahontas, and Sac Counties. All six county Extension offices will remain open to serve clients. The only difference is the way each office is staffed. My primary office is located in Sac City, however, I will be in each of the offices on a regular basis.
Extension Lines is intended to provide timely information from Iowa State University to the newspaper readers in our six-county region. Topics will include information on a wide variety of topics including agriculture, families, youth, community development, and business and industry. If you would like to receive additional information on a specific topic, please feel free to contact your local county Extension office.
Over the weekend, there was a gathering at a local park that had a sand volleyball court. What was meant to be a day of food, conversation, and fun, turned into a concern about the number of wasps in the sand. Upon further investigation, the wasps were identified as "cicada killer wasps," the largest wasps found in Iowa. They may be up to two inches long and are black with yellow markings on the thorax and abdomen.
The cicada killer wasp and other digger wasps are solitary wasps, living independently rather than in colonies and do not depend on other members of a colony to share in the raising of young or the maintaining of a nest.
The female cicada killer wasps capture annual cicadas in July and August and place them in cells located at the ends of tunnels they have dug in the ground. Each tunnel is about the size of a quarter and extends 24 inches or more into the ground. One or two paralyzed cicadas are placed in each cell, and a single egg is deposited before the cell is closed by the female, who flies away, never to return. The wasp grubs feed on the cicadas and develop into wasps that emerge the following summer.
The cicada killer, like other solitary wasps, has the capability to sting, but won't unless handled or threatened. Only female wasps have the ability to sting. Stings inflicted by solitary wasps are usually not severe, but reaction varies with each individual.
Wasps are generally beneficial, and a nest in an out-of-the-way location where it is not likely to be disturbed should be left alone. However, if a nest is located where problems could arise, such as under a home's deck, near an often-used door, or in a city park's sand volleyball court, removal is justified. Ground nests of cicada killers and other digger wasps can be destroyed by placing an outdoor use insecticide dust, such as Sevin, into the nest entrance during the night. The dust particles will adhere to the wasps as they come and go from the nest. Once the wasps are eliminated, the nest openings can be covered with soil.
More information about wasps and other crawling or flying insects can be found at your local county extension office. Here in Cherokee County the office is located at 209 Centennial, Suite A, Cherokee, IA and the phone number is 712-225-6196. Feel free to call and ask the staff in the office. If they cannot answer your question, they will direct you in the right direction to finding an answer.