Cicada Killers

Cicada Killer Season

Lots of recent calls about “wasps the size of a small bird!”, or “huge, I mean huge yellow-jacket!” has urged me to write about this somewhat beneficial solitary wasp. Beneficial in the sense that they help to control the cicada population. Adult cicada killers emerge in summer, typically beginning late June or early July, and die off in September through October.

Cicada Killer-Females

The female cicada killers are typically seen “skimming” around lawns looking for a good site to dig burrows and hunting for cicadas around trees and tall shrubs. Female cicada killers do possess a stinger but are non-aggressive, they use their sting to paralyze their prey rather than to defend their nests; they do not attempt to sting unless handled roughly or stepped on accidentally. Adult cicada killers feed on flower nectar and other plant extracts, yet they provision the nest with a cicada for the hatching larva to feed on.

Cicada Killer-Males

The male cicada killers are more often seen in groups, challenging and fighting each other for position on the breeding aggregation from which they emerged, and will usually inspect anything that moves or flies near them. Even though the males are territorial and have an intimidating defense style, they cannot sting so they pose no threat to humans whatsoever. The males are usually the ones to intimidate or scare approaching humans and prompt the phone call to an exterminator.

Cicada Killer Habits

Cicada killers can be found in dry, sandy soils, bare or patchy areas next to raised sidewalks, steps, driveways, and patio slabs. The female cicada killer will dig a burrow by dislodging the soil with her jaws and using her hind legs to push loose soil behind her as she backs out of the burrow. Although they may live in the same general area, each female has their own individual burrow. They hunt down a cicada and paralyze it then put in in the nest as food for the hatching larvae. Each nest may have one or two cicadas then the female lays an egg on each one. The full-grown larva will over winter then pupate in the spring and emerge as developed adults in mid-summer.

Long Term Control

If you desire to rid your property of these large solitary wasps for more than one season at a time, you will have to be willing to put some work in. The only way to achieve long term control of cicada killers is the same as any ground nesting wasp. Eliminate sandy soil, bare ground areas, and any patchy areas to your lawn by building up healthy grass. You must eliminate the areas that are conducive to a cicada killer infestation so till, overseed, water, and build up your turf. Or as always you can call Guardian each year to eliminate your current infestation for the season.