Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wasp - Cicada And The Circle Of Life

By Thomas Fryd

Self-strangulation happens more often to those trees growing in narrow parkings and near buildings or walls where the space for root growth is restricted to a small area. Trees with well-buttressed trunks are almost invariably free from root strangulation, while the absence of buttress roots on one side of a tree may indicate choking below the surface. A dull appearance of the bark and a depressed area in the trunk near the ground surface are other signs of possible root strangulation. Frequently the offending roots of elms and maples are plainly visible just above the ground.

Damage to trees can often be prevented by locating and cutting away the root traitors. It may be necessary to chisel away, chip by chip, a girdling root which has become embedded in the trunk. After such an operation the tree should be fertilized and kept supplied with plenty of water. When small trees are being planted, the holes should be large enough so that the roots can be spread radially from the tree. Strangulation may result when the roots are twisted to fit a small, skimpy hole.

The large golden digger wasp or cicada killer is a wicked looking insect that usually becomes quite a nuisance around the lawn and garden and a great enemies if you care for cycads in August and September. This black and yellow wasp is about 1-1/2 inches long and the female carries a stinger about 1/4 inch long. The pest is often observed feeding on sap exuding from the bark of oaks and maples and also at the base of lilacs where sap may be oozing because of borer attack. Lawns are frequently damaged by these wasps which dig burrows 1/2 inch across and from 12 to 18 inches deep. The excavated soil is piled in unsightly mounds around the openings to the burrows. The cicada killer usually selects a dry, sunny site for making the tunnel.

When the burrow is finished the female wasp goes zooming about seeking her prey and it makes your beautiful cycad plants ugly... those noisy cicadas. The unwary cicada is caught "flat-footed" and both insects fall to the ground where the wasp injects the pain killer and paralyzes the host. The wasp then drags the cicada up to a place where it "takes off" for home with the quiet cicada getting a free ride. Arriving at the entrance, she drags in the cicada, tucks it away in a cell, and lays an egg on it. The cicada serves as food for the wasp larva. When the larva has had its fill, it makes a cozy cocoon in which it rests until next summer. The cicada killer is not aggressive but does become annoying and although I have never heard of anyone being stung by one, I for one, certainly would not want one up my pants leg or in my shirt.

Landscape Surprise

The hardy amaryllis or surprise lily, Lycoris squamigera, is almost a miracle bulb. Like the colchicums, it makes a spring growth which lasts until about July, then disappears. About a month later, a bare stem appears like magic and quickly grows about two or three feet high and then produces an umbel of rose-lilac, lily-shaped flowers from eight to 12 in number. The bulb is perfectly hardy. Plant now in a well-drained place, covering the bulbs with about four inches of soil.

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