How To Get Rid Of Cicada Killers Naturally? Eco-Friendly Tips for Your Yard

Looking for ways to rid your home and garden of cicada killers without using pesticides? Here is a complete guide for you!

Watching a bunch of black, giant wasps in your garden fluttering around and sitting on your flowers can be terrifying.

Cicada killers are quite infamous, partly because of their looks. These wasps are usually docile, but they do have a stinger, and therefore they can be a risk to you and your family.

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Moreover, even though they are solitary wasps, these bugs have a habit of making their nests in the same place so that you might see several of them in your garden.

How To Get Rid Of Cicada Killers Naturally? Helpful Tips

That said, using pesticides on your plants and yard is never a good idea because these chemicals can be toxic to your family and also kill off other beneficial insects.

In this article, we look at some natural remedies that will help you get your yard get rid of cicada killers.

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What Are Cicada Killers?

Cicada killers are mild-mannered wasps. We know that seems something of an oxymoron, but these gentle creatures are much maligned due to the misplaced fears of people.

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Born in the Sphecidae family and otherwise known as digger wasps, Cicada killers usually focus on only two tasks in their short life as adults – digging burrows and filling them up with cicadas.

These bugs are usually black with yellow stripes on their abdomen and amber-colored wings.

In the United States, cicada killers are present in the eastern states, beyond the rocky mountains.

They mostly appear during the summer months (June or July) and, despite having a menacing stinger, keep their distance from humans.

Moreover, they don’t make those typical hanging nests that most people imagine when thinking of wasps and bees – these critters dig burrows in the soil, and that’s where they live most of their lives, albeit as larvae.

In fact, the male of the species is somewhat aggressive, but the poor chaps don’t have anything to threaten with – nature hasn’t given them a stinger.

The females, who do have heavy weaponry, are fairly docile.

Besides, they have better things to do, such as laying eggs and providing food for the babies. They use their impressive stingers to stun and paralyze cicadas and take them back to their nests.

What Does a Cicada Killer Nest Look Like?

Their nests are uniquely identifiable from that of other creatures by the U-shape around the opening of the hole. Most other bugs and small animals make round holes.

The opening of the cave is hardly 1 to 2 inches in diameter, but that’s just a facade.

When you go down the rabbit hole, you realize that it can be as deep as 12 inches in the ground, with tunnels running as big as 70 inches! That’s almost the height of a grown man.

How To Get Rid Of Cicada Killers Naturally? Helpful Tips

These tunnels have a purpose – the female wasp builds chambers in these tunnels, one for each of her eggs. Moreover, she also provisions each of them with two or three cicadas.

When it’s time to hatch, the larvae find a ready meal in the form of paralyzed cicadas sitting around, just waiting to be devoured.

And the larvae do not disappoint – in 10 days’ time, they eat up the insides of the cicadas and then wait for fall to weave a cocoon around themselves.

They pupate during the winters, waiting for the summer sun. And in due course, when summer arrives, these wasps finally decide to come out and repeat the cycle again.

Are They Dangerous?

To be completely honest, these bugs may look menacing, but they are extremely gentle. As we said earlier, females have a lot of responsibilities to fulfill in a short life span (adults live for only a few weeks).

During this time, they have to mate, produce eggs, dig burrows, paralyze cicadas, and provision a king’s meal for their kids.

Who has the time to go around stinging humans? However, the stingers are not just a showpiece – if humans try to mishandle them or anger them somehow, these wasps will not hesitate to use them.

If you have children or pets in the house, the likelihood of a wasp sting increases multifold because, well, kids will be kids.

Controlling Cicada Killer Wasps, Naturally

While we have mentioned that these wasps are not very interested in stinging you, it’s important to also know that they can gather in large numbers.

Even though cicada killers are solitary wasps (they don’t make a nesting colony), they tend to make their nests very close to each other. Given the space, you might find as many as 100 nests on the same piece of land.

Perhaps this is because these bugs are very choosy about their real estate – they want sandy soil with no vegetation around, lots of sun and warmth, and near about a garden (so that they can get their cicadas easily).

Whatever the reasons, these guys congregate and then become a threat. They can block off entire parts of your garden with their constant buzzing and threats of a sting.

Before we begin with the measures to control these wasps, here are some important things to note:

  • Attacking a wasp nest during the day is madness. You are at risk of getting stung multiple times, no matter what precautions you take. Always approach it at night.
  • Cover your body as well as you can. Wear mufflers, hats, loose flannel shirts, long pants, and maybe even a jacket. Clothing can protect you at least a little bit from a sting.
  • Try not to get too close to the nest. Even if you have to pour or sprinkle something around it, keep a safe distance. For pouring liquids, use a spray bottle.

How To Get Rid Of Cicada Killers Naturally? Helpful Tips

Will Vinegar Kill Cicada Killers?

Not directly, vinegar does not have the same effect on cicada killers as it does on soft-bodied insects like aphids.

However, you can mix water with vinegar and pour it down the wasp’s nest during the night. The liquid will fill up the holes, making the sand muddy.

These wasps do not make their nests in muddy soil, so the vinegar will ultimately force them to find another place to nest.

Does Borax Kill Cicada Killers?

Yes, boric acid impacts cicada killers and might kill them off as well. To use boric acid, go down to the nests at night and pour it down the hole generously.

Make sure to pour it in all the nests (there can be several in the same spot). If you do this for two to three days in a row, the wasp population will reduce significantly.

The remaining few wasps can then be taken care of by other methods, including swatting them.

Does Bleach Kill Cicada Killers?

Yes, bleach is another excellent chemical agent to deal with cicada killers. Just like boric acid, pour bleach down the nest for two to three days in a row.

Keep in mind that both bleach and boric acid will work only on the living wasps. If there are eggs inside the nest, bleach will not work.

After a few days, the eggs might hatch, and you will have the same problem on your hands again.

How To Get Rid Of Cicada Killers Naturally? Helpful Tips

Will Ammonia Kill Cicada Killers?

Yes, in fact, ammonia is one of the most widely used agents for controlling these wasps. When ammonia comes in contact with water, it creates ammonium hydroxide, which is a corrosive agent.

When you pour ammonia down the cicada killer’s nest, it will kill of the wasps almost immediately. Unfortunately, this method will not work on eggs either.

Will Soapy Water Kill Cicada Killers?

Yes, interestingly, a solution of dish soap and water is an excellent way to kill not only wasps but other flying insects as well.

Dish soap solution suffocates these bugs and quickly kills them off. Like most other chemicals, though, dish soap solution does not have any impact on the eggs either.

Will Diatomaceous Earth Kill Cicada Killers?

Yes, Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is an extremely popular insecticidal dust. It is made from fossilized algae and has chemicals that attack the exoskeletons of bugs.

DE is particularly useful in the case of wasps because it is able to impact even the eggs of the bug. Just dust the area near the nests with DE. Do it every night for as long as a week, and you should see excellent results.

How To Get Rid Of Cicada Killers Naturally? Helpful Tips

Does Peppermint Oil Spray Kill Cicada Killers?

Peppermint oil spray does not kill wasps. However, the pungent odor is abhorrent to them, so it does act as a repellant.

Most wasps and, in fact, even other insects do not come near a peppermint oil spray because the odor is too much for them.

By spraying this oil in your garden, you can build a ring fence around your plants.

In fact, there are several other essential oils that can also do the job, such as lemon oil and clove oil.

How Can Boiling Water Kill Cicada Killers?

Boiling water is a very simple and effective trick to remove not just the wasps but also their egg and larvae.

During the night, go to the nests with a torch and pour boiling water in each nest. The water will kill off the wasps, and it will also destroy the nest.

Moreover, other wasps will not be able to make more nests in the space because the soil will become muddier.

How To Destroy Cicada Killer Nest?

The best way to completely destroy a cicada killer nest is to use a liquid on it. Boiling water, vinegar or ammonia will all do the trick.

Liquid makes the sand muddy and makes it useless for the wasp. They will not make a burrow in muddy soil, so they end up having to relocate.

How To Get Rid Of Cicada Killers Naturally? Helpful Tips

How To Kill Cicada Killer Eggs?

As you might have noticed, many of the solutions that we proposed earlier do not work on the eggs.

To remove eggs from a nest, the easiest way is to use boiling water. It will make the nest unusable and also detroy the eggs.

What To Do if There is a Cicada Killer Wasp in House?

Cicada killers do not – we repeat – do not make nests in your house. These are ground digger wasps that love to make their homes only in the garden, that too in spots where there is no vegetation and clear sunshine.

If you have spotted a cicada killer wasp in your house, it most probably strayed in after smelling some yummy fruits or other sugary concoctions on your dinner table.

The best strategy is to try to trap it under a glass and then just let it off in the wild. If that doesn’t work, simply try to swat it with a book or some other big object – it will most probably just find a window and let itself out at the earliest opportunity.

Do not kill the poor wasp – it is a benign creature, and a single wasp can not really hurt you at all. All the methods we described above are best used only if you spot several of these wasps in your garden.

How To Prevent Them From Making Burrows Again?

Once you have gotten rid of cicada killers from your garden, it is important to remain vigilant. Wasps are persistent; when they like a piece of real estate, they love to double down on it.

Here are some ideas on what to do so that they leave your garden alone permanently:

If you have patches of no vegetation or grass in your garden, your first order of business should be to plant some vegetation there. Wasps cannot make tunnels in soil that has grass on it, so they will not come back to your home if you don’t have empty bald spots.

Add a (light) layer of gravel at such spots if you don’t want to plant vegetation. The gravel will work in the same way – it will prevent them from making nests.

How To Get Rid Of Cicada Killers Naturally? Helpful Tips

Remove cicadas from your garden. Find a good narrow-spectrum insecticide that works only on cicadas, and spray it all over the place. If there’s no food, the wasps will not come back.

Another idea is to plant some shrubs such as eucalyptus, marigold, and clove. These plants naturally repel wasps, so they should be able to give you some protection.

Birds and some rodents love to snack on wasps. Build a birdhouse in your garden and invite them to remove the wasps naturally.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of cicada killers permanently?

The best way to do so is to remove cicadas from your garden and plant vegetation on any bald patches of soil.
Removing the source of food and shelter in the garden will discourage wasps from ever coming back to your place.

Should you kill a cicada killer?

If it is only a few cicada killers, you should consider just letting them live. These wasps are really short-lived, but for the small time that they are around, they will quickly rid your garden of cicadas, which are pests of the first degree.

How long do cicada killers stay around?

Adult cicada killers only have somewhere between two to six weeks to live, not more than that.
During this time, they have to mate, reproduce, dig burrows, provision for cicadas and lay their eggs on them.
That’s a tall order, and no wonder these little creatures are always so busy!

Where do cicada killers go at night?

Cicada killers retire to their nests at night. These guys are diurnal creatures, they are active during the hottest hours of the day, and as the evening sun comes, they lose their energy and start to go back to their burrows.

Wrap Up

Before attacking cicada killers and trying to get rid of them, ask yourself – can you really not coexist with them?

For only a matter of six weeks, these little guys will grace your garden, rid you of your cicada problem and also pollinate many of your flower beds.

All they ask for is some yummy flower nectar, and for you to keep your distance. Perhaps it is not that bad a deal to just live and let live.?

Thank you for reading!

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts

18 thoughts on “How To Get Rid Of Cicada Killers Naturally? Eco-Friendly Tips for Your Yard”

  1. I can offer a little medical advice that might help. I have all kinds of weird and random allergies, so I made an appointment with an allergist, who did some tests on my skin to determine what I’m allergic to. He discovered that I’m allergic to Honeybees. After that, he tested me for pretty much everything with a stinger that was Bee-like, and although I’m not allergic to Cicada Killers, I was tested for that too. You should suggest this to your fiance’s mother’s relative, and they will probably be able to determine if he’s allergic to Cicada Killers.

    Reply
  2. If you would check any other website, you will find that the female cicada killers actually do sting, and the stings are very painful. I have captured two of them and could send pics if I knew how to do so on this website.

    p.s. I did not kill these wasps. They were floating in my pool.

    Reply
    • Here is a qoute from the Oklahoma State University Enyomology website: ” In spite of its formidable size and burrowing habit, this wasp is unusually docile and harmless. Although capable of inflicting a painful sting, the female cicada killer wasp is usually difficult to provoke. Mating males are aggressive and more easily disturbed, but cannot sting.”

      Reply
  3. I had the great pleasure of witnessing a cicada wasp dive bomb attack a flying cicada. It was awesome! Nature…it’s all around me!

    Reply
  4. Last summer, we had about 50 or 60 cicada killers in a small area next to our garage. We had to pass that area many times a day to get to our yard and of course, I think I was stung. I can’t say for sure, but there were a couple buzzing around me and then I felt a strange feeling in the side of abdomen. It was really itchy and then got pretty red. It wasn’t nearly as bad as a yellow jacket sting, and I would probably say that a mosquito bite is even more painful than what I felt. My neighbor said that she was stung as well, but I have to preface that there were a ton of cicada killers last year and they seemed to be more aggressive than the previous years when there were fewer. The first year I saw them, I would catch one and it let me pet it like it was a dog. It seemed to like me. I wouldn’t be terribly afraid of them, especially if there aren’t a ton of them around. The real sad part is seeing them die at the end of the summer.

    Reply
  5. I have been researching what I thought was a hornet but since i read about the cicadas killer I’m thinking that’s what i have at my home in SE KY. my only doubts are that mine seem very large and have more yellow on them but they do kill cicadas. Do any other’s kill cicadas.

    Reply
  6. I am a walking letter carrier and i have been indeed stung by one of these.I’ve always just walked through them without worrying about being stung,until a couple of years ago.now i try to slow down and stay calm hoping to not get stung again.It felt like I’d been shot in the calf!!

    Reply
  7. We see these semi-regularly at our home in a town south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And it is always in the summer when cicadas are very active… now I know why that is! Great website by the way, thanks.

    Reply
  8. Cicada Killer Wasps do NOT bite or sting. They do NOT bother humans! They look very menacing, and are often confused as hornets. They ONLY want cicadas! Please don’t kill them.

    Reply
  9. We live in Washington state. We have property in Eastern Washington and each summer in zip code 99115 we get these bees! Yes very scared but not aggressive. As far as we know we have no Cicada bugs in our state so why are these bees here? Also we only see them in the month of July and then not again u til the next July. We are very curious to learn about them.

    Reply
    • You are mistaken that you “have no Cicada bugs in our state.” According to the Washington State University Department of Entomology site: “The orchard cicada is the common cicada of the PNW Region.” BugGuide’s data page shows the range of Cicadas and it includes the Pacific Northwest. Cicadas may not be as numerous in Washington, but they are present. Also, BugGuide does provide data that the Western Cicada Killer has been reported from Washington and sightings are in July as you have observed. Here is a BugGuide sighting of a Western Cicada Killer in Ferry County Washington.

      Reply
  10. I`m in Boise Idaho and seen these at my work. I had to take a few pictures and look them up, crazy looking and large

    Reply

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