My wife and I decided to camp for a night in Pennsylvania on our way back to Boston. It was not until we had wearily pitched our tent and organised all our provisions that I my eyes wandered upon a small, deep, circular hole in the ground. It was less than 3 yards away from our temporary home and it intrigued me not only due to the fact that it was perfectly manicured but also because it looked recently lived in. The hole was only just big enough to fit an extremely thin mouse or a grossly overweight worm and since none of these fleeting thoughts bothered me I simply put it to the back of my mind, forgot about it, and went to sleep.
The next morning I awoke to the greeting of what I initially thought was the sound of a small helicopter circling the tent. I listened for a second, wondering what it could possibly be and then all of a sudden it stopped. After a few minutes of silence I had convinced myself I was still in dream mode and in doing so, rolled over and prepared for another half an hour's kip. However, just as I shut my eyes the seemingly jet-propelled buzzer commenced again. With no helipads close by I immediately sat up and tentatively peeped over the edge of my tent in the hope of discovering the disturber of my slumber. At first I saw nothing and then I noticed the hole from the night before which now harboured at its entrance the biggest looking wasp I have ever seen. As I stretched my eyes to view the insect and his home from the comfort of my own sleeping bag, I couldn't help but be reminded of a particularly burly looking bouncer who fiercely guards the door of his bar back home. Straining to get a better look without opening the zip, I noticed that this creature had all the hallmarks of an ordinary wasp (yellow and black warning stripes, bright legs, bulbous eyes) the only difference being that it was 4 times the size. It seemed to fly around in a directionless manner, unaware of objects other than itself, frequently bumping into trees and the tent. Judging by the sound of its engine I came to the opinion that it only ran on diesel!
I don't have any particular fears of wasps in general but being situated in an unknown land, I didn't want to take the risk of getting stung by this bad boy. Nevertheless, we were setting off early so we opened our tent and began packing our items back into the car, all the while being wary about the where-abouts of our gigantic wasp. Luckily for us, Waspy must have been out foraging because we didn't see it return until we were both in the car ready to leave. He (may have been a she) began circling the car but he somehow looked even bigger than before, as though he was carrying something and was showing it off to us. It was not until he landed on the windscreen that we realised he had caught a Cicada! Cicada's are huge! His position on the screen enabled us to get a good look at his body and markings and my girlfriend was convinced that if he could talk he would be rasping with an evil voice 'you're next.'
When I got home I was desperate to find out what this particular insect was and on discovering its identity I had a serious case of 'don't judge a book by its cover' syndrome. Despite the fact that the name sounds ominous ('The Eastern Cicada Killer') it transpired that this wasp is a bit of a gentle giant. It is known to be a placid insect for its size and will not bother humans unless seriously provoked or stood on. The image with the description showed a wasp with a captured Cicada just as we had seen on the car window. If I see one again, I will no doubt feel more relaxed.