Cicada Killer Wasps
Cicada killer wasps are menacing and destructive.


Though not naturally aggressive toward humans, the impressive size of cicada killers make them seem intimidating. This, coupled with the female's ability to dig sizable tunnel systems, means that they are undesirable to property owners. Warwick-area homes and businesses concerned about the presence of these insects should seek professional wasp control.


Adult female cicada killer wasps can measure as much as two inches in length. Mature adult males may only be about half the size of the female. All cicada killer wasps have black bodies with light yellow bands. They have six legs that may appear orange or red and brown, translucent wings. While the female has a formidable stinger that may be about one-quarter of an inch long, the male has no stinger. Their close resemblance to European hornets means that they are often mistaken for this more aggressive insect.


While cicada killers are known and named for their predatory habits with regard to one insect, it is not the adults who consume their victims. Instead, each cicada is paralyzed by the female's sizable stinger, then carried back to the burrow where it is buried with a single cicada killer egg. The larva feeds on the cicada for several weeks. For sustenance, adult cicada killers mainly eat fermented tree sap or flower nectar.


Cicada killer wasps are particular about their habitat. They like sunny sites that feature light-textured, sandy soil with excellent drainage. These characteristics mean that digging and tunneling are easier and more efficient. Female cicada killers are prolific diggers that are capable of bringing as much as 100 cubic inches of soil to the surface as they create a habitat for their young. This does not represent a problem in wooded areas or fields, but it can be troublesome when these extensive networks are located near human habitations.

Female cicada killers frequently tunnel alongside sidewalks and patios. They may disturb flower beds or damage the smooth surface of a manicured lawn. When tunnel systems are particularly extensive, the amount of dislodged soil can smother and kill grass and plants.


The primary issue with cicada killer wasps is the damage that they can do to property. Female cicada killers are capable of moving surprisingly large amounts of soil. As their tunnel system grows larger, the damage becomes more extensive. This may interfere with the growth of flowers, vegetables and lawns. The tunnels of the cicada system may also make bricks and paving stones uneven or displaced, which can prove to be hazardous for an unwary person.


Female cicada killers have large stingers, which may deliver a painful wound to people or pets. . Males do not have stingers, but they can become territorial. The size of the cicada killer wasp makes them appear more menacing than they are. Though not prone to sting without cause, physical contact with one of these insects may frighten them into stinging a human.

Cicada killer wasps are mainly diurnal, which means that they are likely to be active when people are outdoors.


Though the venom cicada killers inject is far milder than the venom of many bees and yellow jackets, it can still provoke a severe allergic reaction in some individuals. People who have known allergies to bee and yellow jack stings should exercise caution when around cicada killers. If stung, allergic reactions that include excessive swelling, nausea, vomiting and difficulty breathing. These symptoms should be immediately reviewed by a medical professional.


The following signs may indicate a cicada killer problem:

Visual sightings of a cicada killer wasp, frequently gripping a paralyzed cicada
Loose, excavated soil that is roughly shaped like a "U" at the entrance to a burrow


Help prevent a cicada killer infestation with these these steps:

Block tunnels in flower and vegetable beds with large stepping stones
Flood gardens at the first sign of an infestation to discourage further tunneling and destroy larvae
Add a thick layer of mulch to gardens during cicada killer wasp season
Use recommended watering and fertilization practices in grass to ensure more robust growth, which discourages cicada wasp infestation
Cut grass on the highest setting to make the soil bed less available to infestation


This insect is generally solitary in nature, which means that there is rarely a central nest to destroy. Accordingly, the knowledge and expertise of a pest control professional is essential to putting an end to most cicada killer wasp issues.

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A Division Of Newtown Termite & Pest Control, Inc.
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