Cicada Killer Wasp

Actual Size: 1 ½”

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

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Prefer areas in full sun, nearby cicada-heavy areas. 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 Vermont

True to name, cicada killer wasps paralyze cicadas and feed them to their young. Cicada killer wasps are one of the largest wasp species in North America. Female wasps often attack cicadas in flight, sting them until they become paralyzed, and take them back to the nest to feed her larvae. They are found across the nation but are common here in Vermont in the warmer months of the year. 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, or even in playgrounds.

Cicada Killer Wasp Nests or Hives

The cicada killer wasp nests in the ground near cicada populations. Cicada killer wasps appear as adults in late June or July, and are mostly seen visiting flowers or digging burrows in sandy or light soil. 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 cicada killer wasp will paralyze her prey before burying them in the burrow with her eggs.

Cicada Killer Wasp Habits & Stings

Contrary to popular belief, cicada killers are not very aggressive and rarely sting humans or pets unless they feel threatened. Males are aggressive and territorial, but 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. 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 or grass, making walkways or other areas unstable. If you notice their activity in or near your property, it’s best to contact a professional wasp control expert near you for assistance or advice.