Common names: Cicada Killer, Cicada Killer Wasp
Scientific name: Order Hymenoptera, family Sphecidae, Sphecius speciosus
Size: Adult--1 1/2" to 2"
Identification: Large solitary wasp with black or rusty brown and yellow markings. The largest wasp.
Biology and life cycle: Males can't sting but are territorial defenders. Females will, but only if forced. Nests are built in the ground. Females dig burrows a foot or so deep where they store adult cicadas that the ladies have paralyzed by stinging. Eggs laid on cicadas hatch and larvae feed on the stored bugs. Fully grown in one week, the larvae pupate into a cocoon, emerging the following summer. Complete metamorphosis.
Habitat: Active around lawns, vegetable gardens, and oak trees. Nest in the ground.
Feeding habits: Catch cicadas to feed young. Adults eat nectar from summer flowers.
Economic importance: Little if any other than being a very interesting insect.
Natural control: Encourage biodiversity. All creatures have natural enemies, but at this time we are not aware of any. Probably birds, lizards, and snakes.
Organic control: None needed; should be encouraged.
Insight: We're asked about this wasp very often, mainly because they scare people when they fly around the garden in the summer. They are actually beneficial and should not be hurt.
Cicada killers are very plentiful this year. They are very beneficial and rarely if ever sting. About the only time that would happen is if you grabbed one of the female wasps – so don’t do that! They are beneficial by helping to control the noisy cicadas and helping improve the soil by aerating and stimulating biological activity. See the Texas Bug Book for more details.