Cicada Killer Wasp

Actual Size:  1 ½”

Characteristics: Large, black abdomen with yellow markings and amber wings

Habits:

  • The venom of this wasp paralyzes cicadas.
  • Cicada killer wasp larvae feed on the paralyzed cicadas.
  • Females create burrows in bare soil.

Overview

Cicada killers are one of the largest wasp species in North America. Female wasps often attack cicadas in flight, sting them until they become paralyzed and take them back to the nest to feed her larvae. Cicada killers are found throughout the U.S., Mexico, and parts of Central America.

These wasps dig holes or burrows, preferably in soft, sandy, and well-drained soil. They may be found on sloped terrains, in flower beds, along patio edges or sidewalks, as well as in the yard.

Cicada Killer Wasp Habitat

Cicada killers appear as adults in late June or July and are mostly seen visiting flowers or digging burrows in sandy or light soil. The cicada killer wasp nests in the ground near cicada populations. Frequently, dozens of their burrows are located in lawns and on golf courses. A pile of soil often surrounds the entrance. The male wasp flies guard duty over the lawn, chasing away potential predators.

Cicada Killer Wasp Behavior – Threats – Dangers

Unlike other wasp species, cicada killers are not very aggressive and rarely sting humans or pets, unless they are disturbed. Males are aggressive and territorial but do not possess a stinger. A sting from a cicada killer can be painful and their venom may cause an allergic reaction in some people. Cicada killers can be a nuisance if they are found on your property. Female wasps dig fairly large burrows, making quite a large mess near plants and vegetation. The burrowing behavior of this wasp can damage the roots of plants and make some structures, like walkways and pathways, unstable.

Cicada Killer Wasp Prevention

Cicada killer wasps are beneficial in reducing cicada populations, but they may cause lawn damage and are frightening due to their massive size. To prevent and deter Cicada killer wasps, water plants, and vegetation on a regular basis as these wasps don’t care for drenched soil. Keep your lawn mowed and watered regularly. Cicada killer wasps love loose sand! If you have a sandbox on your property, go through and stir up the sand on a regular basis. This will keep females from nesting and reduce the chance of your child being stung.