Cicada Killer Wasps

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 Wasp Identification


What Do Cicada Killer Wasps Look Like?

Cicada killer wasps (Sphecius speciosus) are large, solitary wasps known for their distinctive appearance. They typically measure around 1.5 to 2 inches in length, making them one of the largest wasps in North America. Cicada killers have a robust body with a black abdomen marked with yellow or orange bands. Their thorax is reddish-brown with yellow markings, and their wings are clear with brown veins. Male cicada killers have a yellow face with green eyes, while females have a black face with green eyes.

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Signs of a Cicada Killer Wasp Infestation

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 on 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.


Habitat, Diet, Life Cycle & Stings


Where Do Cicada Killer Wasps Live?

Cicada killer wasps are commonly found throughout North America, primarily in the eastern United States and parts of the Midwest. They inhabit a variety of habitats, including suburban areas, meadows, and open fields. Cicada killers prefer well-drained, sandy soils in sunny locations. They often nest in burrows dug into the ground, particularly in areas with sparse vegetation. These burrows can be found in lawns, gardens, along sidewalks, and near structures such as buildings or fences.

Diet of a Cicada Killer Wasps

Cicada killer wasps are carnivorous insects that primarily feed on cicadas. Adult cicada killers primarily feed on flower nectar, which provides them with energy for flight and other activities. However, female cicada killers also hunt cicadas to provision their nests for their larvae. They capture cicadas in flight or on vegetation using their powerful mandibles and carry them back to their burrows. Once inside the burrow, the female lays an egg on the paralyzed cicada, providing a food source for the developing larva when it hatches.

Life Cycle of a Cicada Killer Wasps

The life cycle of a cicada killer wasp begins when a mated female excavates a burrow in well-drained soil, typically in late spring or early summer. She provisions the burrow with paralyzed cicadas, laying a single egg on each cicada. After hatching, the larva feeds on the cicada until fully developed. It then pupates within a cocoon inside the burrow. In late summer or early fall, the adult wasp emerges from the burrow, and the cycle begins anew.

Do Cicada Killer Wasps Sting?

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 wasp can be painful and their venom may cause an allergic reaction in some people.


Are Cicada Killer Wasps Dangerous?

Cicada killer wasps are generally not considered dangerous to humans. While they are large and intimidating, they are solitary insects and not aggressive unless provoked. Male cicada killers do not have stingers, and females are not inclined to sting unless they feel threatened or their nest is disturbed. Their sting is mild and is primarily used to subdue prey. 

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Cicada Killer Wasp Prevention Tips

To prevent cicada killer wasps:

  1. Maintain a well-manicured lawn with dense vegetation to discourage nesting.
  2. Fill in bare patches of soil and address drainage issues to reduce suitable nesting sites.
  3. Avoid planting flowering plants that attract adult cicada killers.
  4. Keep outdoor lights off at night, as they may attract cicada killers.
  5. Regularly inspect your property for signs of burrow activity and address them promptly.
  6. Contact the professionals! Contact our professional wasp and bee exterminators today to help manage an infestation.



What Do Cicada Killer Wasps Do?

Cicada killer wasps are solitary wasps known for hunting cicadas. Cicada killer wasps play a role in controlling cicada populations and contribute to the ecosystem as pollinators.

Are Cicada Killers Wasps Aggressive?

Cicada killer wasps are not typically aggressive towards humans. While large and may appear intimidating, they are solitary insects and do not defend their nests as aggressively as social wasp species.

Do Cicada Killer Wasps Come Back Every Year?

Yes, cicada killer wasps can typically return yearly, although individual wasps have a relatively short lifespan. While the individual wasps may not survive through the winter, new generations of cicada killers continue the cycle in subsequent years, with new females establishing nests and continuing the population.