Technical Papers

Cicada Killers: Tough Name, Soft Pest

Thursday, July 9th, 2020 by Bill Cowley

Cicada Killers

Cicada killers are large wasps, approximately 2 inches in size, and get their name from killing cicadas in order to reproduce their larvae. Once the female finishes her burrow, which can be 8-16" long, they then go out and hunt for food, which usually is a cicada. The adult female will paralyze the cicada with her stinger, carry the cicada back to their burrow, and lay her eggs under the left or right second leg of the cicada. The eggs then hatch and the larvae begin to eat the cicada while it is paralyzed. 

Cicada Killers are solitary insects, meaning they nest alone. They choose to nest in well-drained, light-textured soils in full sunlight that are near trees harboring cicadas. During the burrowing process, female cicada killers can displace several pounds of dirt making a big mess and damaging the roots of plants. Additionally, they can dig in areas near walkways which can make some structures unstable.

The male cicada killer doesn't have a stinger, but the female does and their sting can be extremely painful. They may look deadly and dangerous, but in reality, they aren't aggressive and rarely sting unless they are grasped roughly, stepped upon with bare feet, or caught in clothing.