Cicada Killer Wasp

Actual Size: 1 ½”

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

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Prefer areas in full sun, nearby cicada-heavy areas. They tunnel underground, leaving a U-shaped appearance in the soil.


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

Cicada Killer Wasps in Knoxville TN

At nearly 2 inches long, cicada killer wasps are one of the largest wasp species in North America. Although they look menacing, they are not very aggressive toward people. They receive their name from their habit of paralyzing cicadas: 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 United States and are seen in residential areas here in Tennessee. 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, and even in playground areas.

Cicada Killer Wasp Nests

Cicada killer wasps 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. Meanwhile, the female cicada killer wasp goes about paralyzing cicadas and placing them in burrows with its eggs.

Cicada Killer Wasp Habits & 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. Females are difficult to provoke but may sting if disturbed. 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. If you notice a lot of cicada killer wasp activity in or near your Knoxville property, contact your professional wasp removal company for assistance.