Cicada Killer Wasps

The cicada killer wasp, also known as the giant cicada killer, is one of the largest solitary, ground-burrowing wasps in the United States. It is found east of the Rocky Mountains and south into Mexico. Although it rarely stings, its large size and menacing behavior makes it a special concern, especially to individuals with young children or with a sensitivity to stings.

The cicada killer wasp is a very large, robust wasp about 1 1/8 to 1 5/8 inches long. It has a black body marked with yellow across the thorax and on the first three abdominal segments, similar to the yellow jacket.

The cicada killer is commonly found in residential areas, city parks, forest edges, golf courses and oil tank farms. They burrow in grass-covered or bare hills, banks and berms, as well as raised sidewalks, driveways and patio slabs, They can be found in loose clay to sandy soils, and in loose soils in planters, window boxes and flower beds. In late summer these wasps are commonly seen skimming lawn areas and flying around shrubs and trees looking for cicadas. The wasps, by paralyzing cicadas with their sting, use them as food for their offspring; the adults feed on flower nectar. Once the cicada is paralyzed, the wasp drags the cicada up a tree or post to gain height so it can fly back to its burrow. The wasp may have to do this several times with each cicada. These wasps dig holes in lawns, kicking out a large, horseshoe-shaped pile of dirt around the nest entrance. The burrow is about  1/2 inch in diameter and may be 6 to 10 inches deep and 12 to 18 inches long. At the end of the burrow are three or four cells. One or two cicadas are placed in each cell; one egg is laid on a cicada in each cell. Several wasps will frequently make individual burrows in one location. These wasps are strong fliers and will travel a considerable distance in search of food. The female wasps rarely sting unless they are disturbed by unwary or frightened persons or by lawn equipment in their nest area.

Treating the lawn and ornamental garden on a regular basis with granule or liquid concentrate is the best way to prevent burrowing. For more information on suggested products or application instructions, please visit your nearest Pestop location..

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