Cicada Killer Wasps Look Intimidating, but Don't Worry

Cicada Killer Wasps look intimidating, but there is no need to worry. Learn about this beneficial insect that is flying around right now.

I know, the name sounds scary and this insect looks pretty intimidating, but the truth is that cicada killer wasps are just another beneficial insect you are bound to run across at this time of year … and you can’t miss them. They are very large, ranging in size from 1 to 2 inches. Their long bodies are black and have distinct yellow markings on the lower part.

Dr. Nancy Hinkle, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Entomology specialist says, “Although intimidating in appearance, these wasps are not something we humans have to worry about. Cicadas, on the other hand, should be very afraid. Cicada killer wasp adults feed on nectar but use paralyzed cicadas to feed their young.”

Since cicadas can do damage to shrubs and trees in your landscape, these insects are actually beneficial to you. They prey on a damaging insect and do not harm people. There is generally no need to control them, as they do not pose a hazard to people. 

But what about stings, you ask? Females have a stinger, which they use to paralyze the cicadas they provide to their offspring, but the females are so focused on this task that they rarely pose a hazard to humans and are not likely to sting. 

The males may act aggressively in their quest to protect the female and offspring. However, male cicada killer wasps do not have a stinger, so they are not capable of stinging. They will behave in an intimidating way to try to keep potential predators away from the females as they go about their cicada hunting. Those behaviors are all for show. 

Want to learn more about Cicada Killer Wasps? Check out this Landscape Alert from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.


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Susan miller August 09, 2012 at 12:06 AM
tell me about those large red and black furry ants . 2 yrs ago I saw my 1st and only one that year but since then they seem to be everywhere.
Mary Carol Sheffield August 09, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I think you are seeing red velvet ants, also sometimes called "cow killer ants". They are actually a wasp, but the females are wingless. Males look similar, but have wings. Similar to cicada killer wasps, the females can sting, but the males cannot. They are usually found in conjunction with ground bees or cicada killer wasps, as they lay their eggs in those insects' nests and the eggs feed on the developing larvae of the ground bee or cicada killer wasp. Ahhh, the circle of life!
Carlee Wright August 10, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I just saw the biggest cicada killer wasp ever on our farm. It looked over 2", came by me on his/her way to their underground nest by our rock wall. They usually next in areas away from where we walk, but this looked to be an unused gopher hole. We have plenty of those. This is the first ckw I've seen in several years, but of course, the cicadas were abundant this year.


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