Cicada Killer Wasps: Identification, 10 Fun Facts & Control

Cicada killer wasps are known by many names like Soil giant wasps or the Solitary Cicada killers. They vary in sizes, and the largest one can reach up to 2 inches in length. The male lack stingers but can be aggressive if they face any insect or animal or human who harms their nest. The females are a bit difficult to handle as they can sting. They infest the person, animal or insect with its venom that is extremely dangerous. The females sting from their sex organ that they use at the time of their reproduction cycle. The females are more intelligent and brave than the males. The females guard their nests against the other insects. These insects are dark in colors and can easily make any person frightened.

Cicada Killer Wasp Identification

1. Size and Appearance

It is a large wasp that varies in size near 1 – 1&1/2 inches, and they do not have legs. These insects are hard to be seen because they are mostly found in burrows. Cicada killers have dark colored wings with the read head. The largest Cicada is found to be 2 inches in length. They apparently can be frightening for the people.

2. Diet and Habits

Cicada killer wasp isolated on the ground.Cicada killers like to live alone. These small wasps are known to be solitary cicada killers as they are found deep underground. Cicada makes their nests and buries themselves in the ground. These killer wasps live under the soil for exactly a year under the case of larvae. The adults suck the nectar of the flowers. Cicada killers search for food near their nests. These wasps do not travel long distances for food and shelter. The female Cicada dies and acts as a source of food and nourishment for the baby Cicadas. The larvae of Cicada live under the nests until their full nourishment. Then they search for the nectar of the flower. The adults can also live on the sap of the trees where they suck nectars and other fluids for their nourishment. Cicada killer can live on the dead female for the whole winter.

3. Life Cycle and Reproduction

The cicada killers hatch their egg near the legs of the female and stay there sucking or eating the Cicada mother. The mother provides nourishment to the small ones and protects them. The other females also lay eggs and protect the nest at the same time. In the case of disturbance, the mother hides the eggs or larvae below her and act as a shield. The cicada larva gets its food until its fullness and then sleeps in the winter by making an outer membrane around it. The membrane or the covering is like silk. When the larvae wake up, it is like an adult and comes out of the nest in search of food. If it is a female, then it starts its reproduction cycle for producing further generations. In cicadas, one generation only live for one year.

4. Habitat and Distribution

Cicada killers are found worldwide especially in the North America where you can find abundant of Cicada killers. These insects are easily found in the soil and sometimes around the flower sucking nectar. They nest near the plants so they can get their nourishment too. They like to stay alone and quiet. These species sleep and are inactive at night. The females lay eggs, and the males search for food in the morning. The nests are dig by the female Cicada killers; they dig the nests long and extensive to stay away from the people and other insects that can be harmful to them.

They are found in large amount in yards where the plants and trees are close to their nests. The Cicada killers can damage the plants and the grass. The Cicada killer females can attack the roots because they live deep in the nest for laying eggs. These insects live in dry soil and can get easily disturbed because of the presence of water.

10 Fun Facts about Cicada Killer Wasps

  1. The females of Cicada have stingers and can sting insects or any other Cicada. The stung can be extremely painful, and the injected venom can paralyze the opponent.
  2. The female wasp lays egg near her second right or left leg. Even the egg hatches near her leg, and it remains there until it can move.
  3. The cicada killers when hatch uses the female Cicada as a source of food and can use the nourishment for its further growth.
  4. The cicada at the time of winter forms an outer covering around itself that is like and sleeps. When it wakes up, it is in its adult form and comes out of the burrow and search for plants for food.
  5. The female wasps are intelligent and have the power to predetermine the sex of its new larvae. She does this to produce more females which can furtherly produce more generations.
  6. The stinger of the female is their sex organ that they use in their defensive mechanism.
  7. Sometimes these insects can get very aggressive and pose a threat for surrounding insects or animals.
  8. These cicada killer look like bees, but their characteristics and behavior are very different from them.
  9. These Cicada killers can eat insects and rubbish in the case of the non-friendly environment.
  10. The Cicada killer females are very sensitive at the time of birth. Some of the females can lack their fertility, and they fulfill the purpose of protecting the nest and act as a food source for other larvae.

Cicada Killer Wasp Species in the Americas

Close-up of cicada killer stinger.

The species of Cicada killer in America belong to the genus Sphecius that includes a total of 21 species. These species are found worldwide. The cicada killers can be easily found in the North America because of their high population. They do not live in colonies, yet their population is abundant in some areas. As you can see, there are 21 species, but they do not vary in their general characteristics. Some of these wasps can reach the size of 2 inches. This species of Cicada is quite large, and because of their dark colors, people fear them. The cicada killers can only be harmful if you touch them with hands or step on it. The chance of stung is approximate to zero as they only pose threats to plants, roots, stem, and trees.

Do Cicada Killers Sting

Well, the cicadas are harmless as they live on the nectar and the decomposition of female Cicada. Although the females do have stingers that can be very painful if stung. The female only uses these stingers in the case of injecting venoms inside any other small insect or any Cicada. The venom is so powerful that it can paralyze the host. The Cicada killers like to live alone, and they do not disturb people if they are walking around their nest. Until they feel danger, they try to attack back, but the males lack stingers. The female wasp can sting the animals around the yard.

How to Get Rid of Cicada Killer Wasps

1. Cicada Killers Damage

Cicada killers can lead to several damages in the plants and trees. Even the quality of the soil can also get disturbed because of the presence of Cicada Wasp. The female ones dig burrows that are very deep and lay their eggs for their nourishment until they grow into an adult. The digging can make the soil lose and can disturb the growth of other crops and plants in that soil. The Cicada likes to live in dry soil, and they dig extensive nests and can reach the roots of other plants. The plants can get damaged because of the attack of Cicada on roots. The solution is to only water the crops or plants well, that will make you sure about Cicadas abandoning. Even it is advisable to drench the parks or playgrounds to prevent Cicadas growing there inside the soil.

Cicada killer damage on soil.

2. Effective Control Methods

There are many solutions for an effective control of Cicada killers in your yards or gardens.

Mechanical Solution

In mechanical solutions, there is a different home-based method that is cheap and easy to use by which you can kill or control the Cicadas. The solutions are:

  • Hot Water or Steaming

You can use hot boiling water and spray or immersed the soil in that water. The hot water will automatically burn or kill the insects. If still, they are alive, they will leave your land and move from there as they live in dry oil and drenching soil can easily disturb them.

  • Netting

Use net around the plants or soils you want to save from Cicadas. The yards or the gardens can also be covered by netting to avoid the presence of Cicada.

  • Use of Sticky Tapes

Sticky tapes can be used around the sap of trees or flowers that will automatically catch the cicada killer wasp.

  • Hot Air

Hot air can be used to kill or remove the Cicada Wasp from the soil or the plants.

Insecticide Uses

Insecticides can be used as an effective method for controlling Cicada killers. Use the sprays with a big nozzle or pipe that can go inside their burrows. Spray it again and again so you can be pretty sure that the cicadas are dead. Even any of the larvae survive, it eventually dies because of no food or suffocation in the burrow.


So, these dark colored wasps can be harmful if they encounter skin. If you know that your yard or garden contains Cicadas, then make sure your kid does not go there. The female one is dangerous and can sting the opponent in case of disturbance. The paralyzing because of her infested venom can eventually lead to death or extreme pain. You can easily control these insects near your home or crops. Use the chemical of mechanical methods. Use the kind of sprays that do not cause pollution. Use home based techniques like hot water or spray that can quickly kill the wasps. Make sure there is no presence of Cicada killers around the crops especially. These insects play the role of disturbing the growth of entire crops. Use sprays with big and long pipes that can go deep in these insect’s burrows and kill the Cicadas.

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