Cicada Killer Wasp

Actual Size: 1 ½”

Characteristics: Large, black abdomen with yellow markings and amber wings

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Nest in areas where cicadas are present. They tunnel underground, leaving a U-shaped appearance in the soil.


  • The venom of this wasp paralyzes cicadas
  • Cicada killer wasp larvae feed on the paralyzed cicadas
  • Females create burrows in bare soil

Cicada Killer Wasps in Eastern Tennessee

Despite their menacing appearance, cicada killer wasps aren’t interested in stinging humans. As one of the largest stinging insects in the nation, cicada killer wasps are concerned with cicadas. Female wasps often attack cicadas in flight, sting them until they become paralyzed and take them back to the nest to feed her larvae. Cicada killers are found throughout the U.S., Mexico, and parts of Central America. These wasps dig holes or burrows, preferably in soft, sandy, and well-drained soil. They may be found on sloped terrains, in flower beds, along patio edges or sidewalks, as well as in the yard.

Cicada Killer Wasp Habitat

In late June or July, adult cicada killer wasps become more active. In Eastern Tennessee, they can commonly be seen visiting flowers or digging burrows in sandy or light soil. and are mostly seen visiting flowers or digging burrows in sandy or light soil. These wasps nest in the ground in areas nearby cicada populations. Frequently, dozens of their burrows are located in lawns and on golf courses. A pile of soil often surrounds the entrance. The male wasp flies guard duty over the lawn, chasing away potential predators. Meanwhile, the female will be the one digging the burrows and laying her eggs.

Cicada Killer Wasp Behavior & Stings

As mentioned earlier, a cicada killer wasp is not very aggressive and will rarely sting humans or pets. Like most types of stinging insects, however, they may be inclined to sting if they feel threatened. That said, males do not possess a stinger. A sting from a cicada killer wasp can be painful and their venom may cause an allergic reaction in some people. In this case, always consult a medical professional.

Cicada killers can be a nuisance if they are found on your property. Female wasps dig fairly large burrows, making quite a large mess near plants and vegetation. The burrowing behavior of this wasp can damage the roots of plants and make some structures, like walkways and pathways, unstable. For that reason, it’s important to always enlist the help of a professional wasp removal expert for help with cicada killer wasps.