Cicada Killer Wasps

Cicada Killer Wasps (Sphecius Speciosus) are ‘Solitary Wasps’.

Cicada killers wasps are large (one and a half inch or longer) wasps with dark brown bodies and black abdomens with yellow markings. Cicada killer wasps are usually found in the Rocky Mountains of the US. Cicada killer wasps are ground nesters which prefer sandy or other well-drained soils where the queens dig tunnel-like chambers.

The adults are active in the summer, usually around mid-July. They are frequently seen flying about in the nesting areas.

Cicada Killer Wasp Lifecycle

Cicada Killer Wasp

The adult wasps feed on flower nectar however, the larva and immature wasps feed on other Cicadas.

The queens search for Cicadas to provision their nests (hence the name).

Each chamber in the nest (often as many as 16) is supplied with a paralyzed Cicada wasp and a wasp egg. When the larvae hatches it feeds on the Cicada wasp. Later the larvae pupates and the wasp hibernates in the nest as an immature adult.

Cicada Killer Wasp and humans

Female Cicada killer wasps are not aggressive and rarely sting unless handled roughly, disturbed, or caught in clothing, etc. Males aggressively defend their perching areas on nesting sites against rival males but they have no sting. Although they appear to attack anything which moves near their territories, male cicada killers are actually investigating anything which might be a female cicada killer ready to mate.

Such close inspection appears to many people to be an attack, but the wasps rarely sting, bite, or even land on people. If handled roughly females will sting, males will jab with a sharp spine on the tip of their abdomen, and both sexes are well equipped to bite with their large jaws, however they are non-aggressive towards humans and fly away when swatted at, instead of attacking.

Cicada killer wasps exert a natural control on cicada populations and therefore directly benefit the deciduous trees on which cicadas feed.