My front yard is a battleground

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Now that dog day cicadas are out in full force, their giant wasp tormentors have emerged to gather the bounty. Female cicada killers (Sphecius speciosus) scour the trees for prey to fill their underground burrows, while males jostle for the territories that grant them mating rights.

Sphecius speciosus, male

Several male cicada killers have set up shop in our prairie garden, perching alertly on the flower heads and zooming off to challenge would-be usurpers.

The above photograph, taken in ambient light, was possible because of a thin overcast at mid-day on Friday. The soft lighting eliminated any glare or harsh shadows. As I abstained from my usual foreground flash, the background (mostly Rudbeckia black-eyed susans) was naturally exposed in full color. Light levels were bright enough for a moderate depth-of-field (f/7) at ISO 800 and a fast, 1/200 sec exposure.

Prints of this image can be ordered here (click on “buy” at upper right).


photo details:
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D camera
ISO 800, f/7, 1/200 sec
ambient light

7 thoughts on “My front yard is a battleground”

  1. That certainly looks like one serious tormentor!
    Coincidentally ‘killer wasps’ have emerged recently on the cliffs near me (UK) -Philanthus triangulum also called the Bee Wolf which carries paralysed honey bees to the nest.

  2. James.C. Trager

    Hi Alex — Awesome picture. I emailed you not quite as awesome one of a mating pair on one of their favorite nectar sources – myrmecos.net address. Maybe worthy of a reader photo posting?

  3. Stunning picture. Any action shots of one taking a cicada?

    Does such an over-abundance of food one year throw off the balance of predator and prey the following year?

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