My buddy Mike Burgett had knocked out the wasp's nest tucked up under a fence in my backyard, and we were enjoying a beer and the company of a friend, when he sighted it.
It was a wasp too big to have been the garden-variey, back-biting wasps recently rendered homeless by his attack. It was a cicada killer wasp.
"Look at that thing," Mike said. "Look how big that thing is."
(All dialogue approximate. After all, we were drinking beer in the backyard.)
"That's one of those cicada-killer wasps," Mike said.
It was a really, really, really big wasp. I began to ready the weaponized pesticide I was keeping holstered, in case any of our homeless wasps came back and found their nest trashed and looked to wreak vengeance. But Mike stayed my killing hand.
"These wasps won't sting you," he said.
A wasp that won't sting me? Does that go with the sun that won't burn me? The beer that won't make me fat? The wife who won't make me clean out the gutters?
"She's just out hunting cicadas," Mike explained. "I've seen one dive-bomb and sting one in mid-air. The sting paralyzes the cicada. Then she drags it into the burrow she has dug - they nest in the ground - and lays her eggs in the dead body. The larvae feeds on the dead cicada all winter."
"Serial killers haven't come up with anything new," I said. "The insect world already had it all figured out."
Mike nodded. He works outdoors. He has seen it all - nature blood red in stinger and antennae.
Like serial killers, cicada-killer wasps have their fan sites; however, the image was borrowed from a site more sympathetic to the cicada. The caption on the site reads, rather drily, "Southern Dog-day Cicada fighting off wasp attack, Indian Creek Trail, Chatham County, NC, 8/2/05. The cicada was very noisy as the two bounced around for quite some time." No mention as to the outcome of the battle.