Preferred Pest Control Cicada Killer Wasps

Ahhh! Real Monsters: Cicada Killer Wasps

August 1, 2014

Every 17 years a loud, shrill mating call announces the emergence of the cicada. They have camped out in our trees all summer, feeding off the sap from the roots. And while the 17-year cicada can be very annoying, they are virtually harmless creatures. The true threat is their predator, commonly known as the cicada killer wasp. 

Cicada killers are Iowa's largest wasp species, measuring 2 inches in length. Their bodies are black and have yellow striped markings on their thorax and abdomen and because the 17-year cicada has returned this summer, we can expect to see a lot of wasps in the next few weeks. Read on to learn about their painful sting, where you'll find this annoying pest and how Preferred Pest Control can help you get rid of cicada killer wasps for good.

Habitat and Life Cycle

The cicada killer wasp is a type of digger wasp and digs a nest in dry soil to host their larvae. Areas that are well-drained and receive full-sunlight are possible areas for a nest. During late July through August, male cicada killers will emerge from their burrows while females nest in the soil for a week or two longer. You will know if you have a cicada killer nest if you notice large mounds of dirt and sand in your garden or along the edges of patios or sidewalks that seem to appear overnight. This mound is from the soil that the wasps have excavated from building deep tunnels underground that the larvae live in to survive Iowa's harsh winter. Offspring will emerge in the summer and live as an adult for 30 days throughout August.

The Hunt for Prey

The female cicada killer wasp will fly around trees inspecting branches and roots until she finds a cicada. She will use her stinger to instantly paralyze the cicada and will use her hind legs to carry it back to the nest, placing it in one of the cells. She will then lay one to two eggs upon each cicada. The purpose of paralyzing the cicada rather than killing it is so that larvae can feed off the venom-preserved insect throughout the winter.

Although they hunt and kill cicadas, the adult wasp does not eat cicadas. Instead, they find their main source of food in flower nectar, one reason you'll find them hovering and making burrows in your flower bed. You can make a garden or flower bed less attractive for cicada killer wasps by placing fresh dirt over sandy, dry patches and watering the soil often.

Cicada Killer Sting

If not disturbed, cicada killer wasps will go about their business and will not bother you. But if they feel threatened, the female cicada killer has a needle-like stinger that can be very dangerous to children and pets. For individuals who are allergic to bees and wasps, one sting from a female cicada killer may be enough to cause serious allergic reactions or death from shock. Although the likelihood of such severity is extremely rare, immediately contact emergency professionals if you detect an allergic reaction. For animals and pets that are stung, the venom of the cicada killer can be deadly. Just as you would contact professional help if you are stung, you should take your pet to a local veterinarian immediately.   

The male cicada killer wasp does not have the ability to sting, bite or otherwise harm a human. The main task of a male cicada killer is to mate with females. They also spend the majority of their lives butting heads with other wasps to defend their territory. Although they might seem aggressive when they are charging at you to defend their nest, they are not dangerous. However, it is difficult to tell a male from a female, so we don't recommend handling any wasps. 

Infestation and Damage

Although cicada killers don't live in colonies, many individual wasps could decide to call your lawn their home. If this happens, you could see significant damage to your lawn. When they dig they can uproot flowers and plants and even cause damage to sidewalks and foundation from several pounds of dirt that is removed.

Don't wait until it is too late and you see damage throughout your yard. Call Preferred Pest Control at (888) 778-5977 to get your property treated for cicada killer wasps. We keep your home and lawn pest free, so you can be worry free!