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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.
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Katydid Hunters

Posted by Kelly Allsup - Bugs

August 30, 2012

News source: Kelly Allsup, 309-663-8306,

News writer:

Katydid Hunters

URBANA - Katydid Hunters (Sphex pensylvanicus) have been congregating on your flowering plants to feed on pollen and nectar in the garden leaving gardeners to wonder if they should close the gate and go back into the house, states Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois Extension Educator, Horticulture. They are black wasps as big as a thumb and are also called Steel-blue cricket hunters for the iridescence of their black color. The solitary katydid hunter allows the gardener to work right beside them because they are not aggressive. However, their aggressiveness to katydids (Tettigonioidea Family) is what gives these wasps beneficial status.

In mid to late summer, wasps emerge and the female begins to burrow and tunnel in to the ground with the cooperation of her mouth and front legs. She has mated and is ready to lay eggs but first must hunt katydids for her young. Using her stinger, she immobilizes the katydid and drags it back to her nest where she lays her egg on the victim's abdomen. When the eggs hatch, the carnivorous larvae will have nutrition before they pupate in the ground throughout most of fall, winter and spring. This wasp has also demonstrated the ability to use tools by using materials around the nest to pat down the tunnel opening after she has filled it with soil. A female wants her young to be protected from the winter and predators.

University of Illinois Extension suggests avoiding chemical treatments to rid the garden of these beneficial insects unless the populations are large and damaging. Planting ground covers or using mulch may deter them from nesting around your home. If treatment is necessary, a homeowner can use a synthetic pyrethroid with active ingredients called bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethin or permethrin. These products are applied to the soil as a drench or sprinkled around the nest. Bifenthrin is the most leach resistant and will stay in the area it is applied.

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