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Cicada killers look more fierce than they are

Special Photo. These insects, known as eastern cicada killers, have invaded parts of Newton County and usually follow cicadas. They are generally harmless to humans and will probably disappear in around a month.

Special Photo. These insects, known as eastern cicada killers, have invaded parts of Newton County and usually follow cicadas. They are generally harmless to humans and will probably disappear in around a month.

COVINGTON -- Folks are reporting that they're seeing some varmints in Newton County that they've never seen before, but authorities say there's no need for concern.

"They look like a real bad hornet or wasp, but they look a lot worse than they are," said Jody Nolan of Newton County Emergency/Risk Management. "People are saying they've never seen this type of insect here before. They're called eastern cicada killers. About every 13 years this cicada comes out and these killers emerge about the same time."

Ted Wynne of Newton County Extension Service said he was notified by residents of the Stone Ridge subdivision in central Newton County that the insects were flying around and he said he thought he knew what it was, but caught one just to be sure. Since then he's scouted around several subdivisions and found them.

They usually hover about 18 to 24-inches above the grass and when they nest they burrow into the ground.

"They're a natural predator to the cicada and unless you step on one or grab one, they're not going to bother you," Nolan said.

Wynne agreed and said he had quite a time trying to catch one.

"Just be careful and don't step on them," he said. "In all the 20 minutes I was trying to catch one, they didn't once offer to try to get to me. They were all over the place trying to get away from me."

He described the cicada killers' life cycle, which he said usually lasted 2 to 6 weeks.

"Normally you see the female. She captures a cicada and flies back with it to her burrow and drops it in. Then she lays an egg on top of it and covers it back up. The cicada is the food source for her larvae which hatches out again next June or July," he said, adding that many people mistake them for locusts. "Once she lays her eggs and covers her burrow up, she's pretty much going to die. She's impressive looking -- very similar to a hornet, but she's not aggressive whatsoever."

Wynne advised not taking any action against the insects, but to just "wait them out," and they'll be gone within a month or so. They control the cicada population and are also pollinators.