Currently viewing the category: "Cicada Killer Wasps"

Subject:  Unidentified bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Bryn Mawr, PA
Date: 07/21/2021
Time: 11:04 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  We couldn’t figure out what this is? It is always coming to the same spot and stay on the same leaf of our pepper plant almost all day long.
Thank you:  How you want your letter signed:  Gozde Ayaz

Cicada Killer

Dear Gozde,
This magnificent solitary Wasp is a Cicada Killer.  Because of their large size, Cicada Killers often fall victim to Unnecessary Carnage at the hands of folks that kill things that they fear.

Subject:  Bee/wasp-like insect
Geographic location of the bug:  Kingston, NJ
Date: 08/17/2019
Time: 04:58 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  In the last week these bees have appeared in an area of our yard that is very dry with browned grass. All of a sudden they have bored holes in the ground with mounds of dirt around them. These bees are larger than most, seem non-aggressive but are wrecking the area around our patio. Today I noticed them attempting to move some dead cicadas towards the openings. Is there a way to rid the area of the bees(don’t want to kill them) and get them to relocate? We have lived here for 40 years and have never seen any bees like these? I would welcome all info.
How you want your letter signed:  Beelover, Liz

Cicada Killer

Dear Beelover Liz,
This is not a bee.  The Cicada Killer is a species of solitary Wasp that has a life cycle that lasts a year.  Upon emergence in early summer, a female Cicada Killer mates and then spends several weeks hunting Cicadas to provision an underground nest with food for her brood.  The larvae feed on the paralyzed, but still living Cicadas, and then pupate, emerging in early summer to begin the cycle again.  You will only be “troubled” by their digging for a short time longer.  We are having a hard time believing you discovered that trove of Cicadas on your walk.  We suspect they might have been excavated, destroying the underground nest along with a future generation of Cicada Killers.

A Trove of Paralyzed Cicadas


Subject:  Sooooo BIG
Geographic location of the bug:  Titusville, NJ (Central NJ)
Date: 08/07/2019
Time: 07:40 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Bugman,
My husband caught this massive hornet-type thing around 2:30 pm. It was sunny, hot/humid, and right before a storm. It flew into our sunporch. What is it? Does it sting?
How you want your letter signed:  Worried Mama

Cicada Killer

Dear Worried Mama,
This is a Cicada Killer, a solitary wasp that is not considered aggressive.  Social Wasps will often sting to protect the nest, but female Cicada Killers use the stinger to paralyze Cicadas to provide food for her brood.  Since your inquiry includes the information that your “husband caught” this Cicada Killer, and since it looks quite dead in your image, we are surmising that it was killed in the capture process.  Cicada Killers are not aggressive, and though they are large and scary, they do not tend to bother people and stings would be a very rare occurrence that would probably only happen if a living Cicada Killer was carelessly handled.  We have countless incidents on our site of Cicada Killers succumbing to Unnecessary Carnage.

Thank you for your quick reply! It was actually alive when he caught it, but I have begun collecting and mounting specimens that I find (it was dead in the photo – I froze it to kill it quickly and keep it intact for display). When I encountered it, it seemed aggressive, but since it was in a 15×10 room perhaps it was only looking for an exit..? Now that I know what it is, if I encounter another again I will not be quick with a kill.
Could you tell from the photo if it was male or female? I like to include as much information as possible with my specimens. …
Thank you again!!!
Amber Wilno (worried mama)

Hi Amber,
We are untagging the Unnecessary Carnage designation we originally attached to this posting.  A large Wasp trapped in a small room likely appears quite intimidating when it is buzzing and striking against the glass window panes.  We apologize, but we do not feel confident sexing your individual.  We did try to research how to distinguish the sexes, and though we did not locate an easy reference, we do like this information we found on the University of Kentucky Entomology page:  “Are cicada killers dangerous? Females have significant stingers which they plunge into cicadas to inject venom that paralyzes them. Without doubt, their stings are painful. However, they are not aggressive and do not have nest-guarding instinct of honey bees and hornets. You can walk through areas where they are active without attracting attention.

The buzzing noise that the wasps make and the warning colors on their wings and bodies intimidate and discourage predators that see them as a large meal. When attacked, females will use their stinger to protect themselves. 
Males lack stingers but are territorial. They will approach anything that enters “their area”, including walkers, people mowing or using weed-eaters, or riding tractors. They may hover and challenge trespassers but are harmless. That can be easy to forget when staring down a big wasp.”

Subject:  Big identification
Geographic location of the bug:  Southeast Texas
Date: 07/31/2019
Time: 09:13 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This has been flying around here for a few days now. I have tried to identify it but no pictures are exactly accurate to its markings. It is the last day of July and temperatures are in the 90’s.
How you want your letter signed:  Sue

16 minutes later:  I believe I found a picture of it. Could it be a Cicada Killer Wasp?

Cicada Killer

Hi Sue,
You are correct that this is a Cicada Killer and it looks quite dead.  Cicada Killers are not aggressive toward humans, and though they are quite large and possibly scary appearing, they are not interested in stinging humans, but that does not prevent them from falling victim to unnecessary carnageFemale Cicada Killers spend their lives hunting Cicadas to provision a nest.  Like other solitary wasps, they do not defend the nest from threats. 

Thank you for verifying it’s name. We have tons of Cicadas here so that explains their presence.

Subject:  Hornet/ wasp
Geographic location of the bug:  Pearland TX
Date: 07/06/2019
Time: 04:06 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This hornet attacked a locust and was dragging it around in the grass in the backyard just yesterday July 5 2019
How you want your letter signed:  KMB

Cicada Killer with Cicada prey

Dear KMB,
This Wasp is a Cicada Killer and its prey is a Cicada, not a Locust which is actually a Grasshopper.  Cicada Killers are not aggressive.  The female Cicada Killer stings and paralyzes a Cicada and then drags it to her burrow to serve as food for her brood.

Cicada Killer

Subject:  Wasp or bee
Geographic location of the bug:  Murphy Idaho
Date: 06/18/2019
Time: 10:22 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I need to know what these are they showed up in our backyard and we have two small children
How you want your letter signed:  Jackie

Western Cicada Killer

Dear Jackie,
This magnificent wasp is known as a Western Cicada Killer.  The female is a solitary wasp that builds an underground nest that she provisions with paralyzed Cicadas to feed her brood.  Western Cicada Killers are not an aggressive species and the female does not defend the nest.  Though Cicada Killers might sting if carelessly handled, we have never received an authenticated report of a person being stung by a Cicada Killer.  Though we empathize with the action you have taken out of concern for your children, we are nonetheless tagging this posting as Unnecessary Carnage.

we have not killed any even though my daughter was stung in the face and she had to go to the ER because her eye was swollen shut and her whole side of her face was swollen so they do sting. We found this one floating in her pool they are all over my backyard can you tell me how long they will be here?

We apologize for our rush to judgement.  BugGuide does not include any reports from Idaho, but in nearby Washington, they are reported in July.  We suspect the life span of an adult Western Cicada Killer, Sphecius grandis, to be about four to six weeks.