This very large wasp occurs east of the Rocky Mountains
and measures 1-9/16 inches / 40 mm in length. It
has a black abdomen with pale yellow markings on
the last three abdominal segments. Adults are seen
in late July and August.
This wasp gets its name from the fact that it uses
cicadas as food for its young. Cicadas are very
large insects that are sometimes called “locusts”.
They sing loudly in the trees during late summer.
Cicada killers are solitary wasps. There may be
many individuals flying over a lawn, but they do
not nest together. Each female digs her own burrows.
Burrows may be up to 10 inches deep and may extend
another 6 inches horizontally. Burrows have piles
of dirt piled up at their entrances. The wasp then
locates a cicada, stings it to paralyze it and brings
it back to the burrow. One or two cicadas may be
placed in the burrow and an egg deposited on one.
The wasp larvae feed on the cicada. Full grown larvae
hibernate in the burrows, pupate in the spring,
and emerge the following summer as adults.
While cicada killers are beneficial in reducing
cicada populations, they do cause lawn damage and
are frightening to the homeowner because of their
large size and massive population. Fortunately,
they sting only when strongly provoked.
Control can be achieved by flooding each burrow
hole with insecticide, completely filling it. This
should kill the developing young so that the following
year’s population is greatly reduced.
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