Copy Cat Killer: The
Tim Gibb, Insect Diagnostician, Department of
Entomology, Purdue University
Same M.O. , different perpetrator.
M.O. or ‘modus
operandi’ is a Latin phrase, used in law enforcement to describe
a criminal’s characteristic pattern or style of committing
a crime. When a serial killer’s M.O. is copied or adopted
by a second criminal, investigators are often confused. The term
Copy Cat Killer was coined to refer to the second criminal who
adopts the M.O. of the first and continues the crime spree.
this sounds like something out of a detective movie it probably
should because the Giant European Hornet (a copy cat killer in
the insect world) is sometimes mistakenly confused with the Cicada
Case-in-point ….. the
enclosed photos were sent to me along with questions regarding
the cicada killer wasp. Here are photos of the suspect, caught
red handed, killing and dismembering a cicada. Evidence is clear.
This must be a cicada killer wasp. But wait, not so fast. Even
though the photo presents indisputable evidence that the victim
(cicada) was killed by this wasp, does not necessarily make it
a cicada killer wasp.
In fact, this wasp is a Giant
European hornet (Vespa crabro). Notice the yellow and black abdomen – rather
than more white and black abdomen of the cicada killer. Overall,
the European hornet is slightly smaller, and has a bronze thorax
and head, and the front of the thorax is rounded rather than flat,
when compared to the cicada killer (Sphecius
hornets do kill cicadas among other insects but they differ slightly
in the way in which they dispose of the body. Cicada killers paralyze
and drag the whole cicada carcass to their nest which is a hole
in the ground. European hornets, on the other hand, dismember the
carcass and make several trips carrying away pieces one by one
to gray paper nests made in trees or structures.
From another perspective
however, the M.O. of the European hornet maybe slightly different
than that of the cicada killer, but this presents little consolation
for the poor cicada. Dead is dead.