How To Destroy Cicada Killer Nest? Helpful Tips

Cicada killers can be a nuisance, and they might even sting you if you get too close. Here’s how to destroy cicada killer nests.

Having large wasps around your home or garden can be scary, especially since the news of “murder hornets” invading the United States came out a few years ago. 

Even the relatively non-aggressive wasps tend to attack and sting when threatened, which can happen if you accidentally get too close to them. 

This is true for cicada killer wasps as well, and hence you might be trying to get rid of them. 

This article will help you with tips on cicada killer wasp nest removal.

How To Destroy Cicada Killer Nest? Helpful Tips

What Are They?

Cicada Killers (Sphecius speciosus) are a species of solitary wasps that live in underground nests. 

Although they tend to congregate together and may appear as social wasps, they do not have colonies to defend. Rather, cicada killer wasps create individual nests in the ground.

As you might guess from their name, these wasps specialize in hunting cicadas for their young. The females can paralyze their prey by stinging, after which they drag the paralyzed cicada to their nests. 

Apart from cicadas, these wasps hunt locusts and other insects as well. They’re also known as ground digger wasps because the females make U-shaped nests by digging tunnels in soft soil.

How To Recognize Them?

Growing up to 1.5 inches to 2 inches in length, these large wasps are rather hard to miss. 

Their size often causes people to confuse cicada killers for the European hornet or the Asian giant hornet

However, cicada killer wasps have black bodies with prominent yellow stripes over the abdomen, and they are nowhere as aggressive as these other species.

These wasps are native to the US and are found in abundance throughout two-thirds of the country. 

Cicada killers are particularly common in Iowa, where you can find plenty of them in summer from early July to mid-August.

How To Destroy Cicada Killer Nest? Helpful Tips

What Does a Cicada Killer Nest Look Like?

You may have a bit of a hard time finding an underground cicada killer nest if you don’t know what to look for. 

As mentioned earlier, these wasps dig one or more tunnels in the soil to make their nests. They prefer soft soil, especially flower beds and gardens.

You’ll be more likely to find a cicada killer burrow along an edge, such as areas where driveways or sidewalks meet lawns and flower beds. 

This is because the wasps use these edges as landmarks to find their way back to their nests. 

The diameter of the tunnels is about the size of a quarter. But these tunnels may run up to 24 inches deep into the ground.

Are They Dangerous?

Although these wasps might look scary, they are rather docile. While the females are the only ones capable of stinging, they don’t sting unless heavily provoked. 

However, you should still be careful if you are allergic to wasp venom.

Males might seem aggressive and try to bump you, but they really have no weapon to hurt you with.

How To Destroy Cicada Killer Nest? Helpful Tips

Do They Sting?

Male cicada killers aren’t capable of stinging as they do not have stingers. Although they’re territorial, all they can do is swarm or buzz around you aggressively. 

Stingers evolved from ovipositors; the female organ used to deposit eggs. Hence male wasps never have stingers.

The females can sting, but they are usually busy gathering food and rarely sting.

Are They Beneficial?

Before you work on eliminating cicada killer nests, please note that they are beneficial and serve important roles in nature. 

Firstly, the fact that they feed on nectar from flowers makes them excellent pollinators. 

Secondly, they can protect your garden from pests like locusts and cicadas by hunting them down. 

Locusts can be especially disastrous and are capable of wreaking havoc on gardens or agricultural fields.

How To Control Their Presence?

Although these wasps are relatively harmless and beneficial, a heavy presence of cicada killers can be problematic. 

If your garden has too many cicada nests for your liking, here’s how you can start eliminating them. 

Getting rid of cicada wasps isn’t too hard as they live in underground tunnels – you can simply spray insecticide inside their nests.

For cicada killers, it’s best to use synthetic pyrethroid pesticides that contain Cypermethrin as an active ingredient. 

Emulsify it with water as per the instructions and set the sprayer to pin stream mode. 

Find out as many cicada killer nests as you can and use the sprayer to spray the insecticide straight into the tunnel.

Keeping in mind that these tunnels often run very deep, be as thorough as possible. 

You’d also want to spray some pesticide at the entrance to the nest. The best time to do this is in the evening since the adult wasps are usually in the nest by then.

How To Destroy Cicada Killer Nest? Helpful Tips

How To Prevent Further Cicada Killers?

Now that you know how to get rid of cicada killers, let’s check out how you can keep them at bay in the future:

  • Look out for new tunnels and spray them with insecticide.
  • Consider leaving the grass a bit tall and maintaining a dense turf to make your lawn unappealing to cicada killers.
  • Water your lawn deeply to make it unsuitable for nesting.
  • Apply at least three inches of mulch under the shrubbery.
  • You should be especially careful right after carrying out the treatment, as any surviving wasps may build new nests.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does vinegar kill cicada killers?

Vinegar is a common natural insecticide that works against a variety of house and garden pests. It doesn’t kill cicada killers on contact. 
However, pouring a mixture of hot water and vinegar into a cicada wasp tunnel can help flood it and make the soil muddy. This way, the wasp will not be able to make its nest in that soil again, preventing the next generation from taking birth.

Should I kill cicada killers?

Although the presence of cicada killers can be a nuisance, it’s best to leave them be. As mentioned earlier, they are beneficial to the environment. 
Not only would they help pollinate your garden, but they would also lend you a hand with pest control by hunting harmful pests.

How long do cicada killers stay around?

Cicada killers have a very short lifespan. Adult male and female cicada killers live for two and four weeks, respectively. 
They are active mostly in summer when they emerge from their nests after overwintering. Their eggs usually hatch around mid-July.

What home remedy gets rid of cicada killers?

If you aren’t a fan of using chemical pesticides and would prefer a home remedy, you can simply use boiling water. 
Boil at least a gallon of water and pour it down the cicada wasp tunnels. Cover the holes with glass bowls to prevent the wasps from escaping. 
The ones that survive the boiling water will either suffocate due to the bowl or die from the heat of the sunlight reflecting through the glass.

Wrap Up

Well, now you are aware that cicada killers are nowhere as dangerous as yellow jackets or other aggressive wasp species. 

If you can, just let these beneficial wasps stay in your garden and perform their roles. However, in case you need to eliminate them, you now know how to go about it too. 

Either way, we hope you found this article worthwhile! 


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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