Cicada Killer Wasps

Actual Size: 2″

Characteristics: Black or dark brown with yellow markings and amber-colored wings.


  • True to their name, these wasps kill cicadas with their venom.
  • Often found carrying cicadas.
  • Female wasps are able to predetermine the sex of their larvae.

Cicada killer identification

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.

Cicada killers are very large, about 1 ½ inches in length with amber wings. Their body is black or brown with bright yellow markings on the abdomen. 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 life stages

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 nests in the ground near cicada populations. Frequently, dozens of their burrows are located in lawns and on golf courses.

Males appear as adults for a week or two before females, spending their time feeding on flowers and establishing territories. When females emerge from the soil, mating takes place and the female will begin to dig a burrow or nesting site. The female then seeks a cicada in the trees, stinging and paralyzing the insect with her venom. After stinging the cicada, the female wasp carries it back to her burrow, sometimes a hundred yards away.

The female Cicada Killer lays one egg in a cell with one, two or three cicadas, then seals the chamber. The eggs hatch in two to three days, producing larvae that feed for two weeks, which then spin a cocoon of silk mixed with sand or soil. The cocoons remain in the chamber throughout the winter, emerging as adults the following summer.

Cicada killer threats

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.

Cicada killer extermination and control

Although the threat of Cicada killer stings is mild, they can destroy vegetation on your property when building nests. Take the following actions to prevent and deter Cicada killer wasps on your property:

  • Water plants and vegetation on a regular basis. Cicada killers don’t care for drenched soil.
  • Keep your lawn mowed and watered regularly.
  • Cicada killers 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.
  • Add a thick layer of mulch to flower beds and keep saturated to deter wasps.