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Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus)

Order: Hymenoptera (hy-men-OP-ter-a) (Info)
Family: Sphecidae
Genus: Sphecius
Species: speciosus


This bug has been reportedly found in the following regions:

Birmingham, Alabama
Bryant, Arkansas
Mena, Arkansas
North Little Rock, Arkansas
Niantic, Connecticut
Jacksonville, Florida
Leesburg, Florida
Palm Bay, Florida
Tavares, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Peru, Illinois
Coatesville, Indiana
Greenville, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana
Newburgh, Indiana
Rising Sun, Indiana
Davenport, Iowa
Hyattsville, Maryland
Coldwater, Michigan
Sturgis, Michigan
Glendive, Montana
Lincoln, Nebraska
Maplewood, New Jersey
Staten Island, New York
Wykagyl, New York
Concord, North Carolina
Winston Salem, North Carolina
Bowling Green, Ohio
Youngstown, Ohio
Bray, Oklahoma
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Chapel Hill, Tennessee
Hendersonville, Tennessee
Dallas, Texas
De Leon, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Friendswood, Texas
Gorman, Texas
Jacksonville, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (2 reports)
Southlake, Texas
Tooele, Utah
Staunton, Virginia
Beloit, Wisconsin
Show all

Members' Notes:


On Nov 23, 2016, ruckerlady from Gorman, TX wrote:

When my pears start ripening, these wasps swarm the tree in large numbers. They seem harmless, and haven't attacked when I pick the fruit.


On Jul 13, 2013, flemtech1 from Bryant, AR wrote:

I have not experienced this insect in my 30 years of living in
Arkansas until today. I would love to believe that these creatures do not sting, but I'm certain by the looks of them that they do. I found it quite interesting that the one I saw today had lined up 8 cicada, all facing down, lined up in a row, in a gap between my concrete drive and some brick pavers.........he/she was very precise because they were actually in order from small to large.
Please advise if anyone has been stung by one of these and do you think they could harm my Kat


On Apr 12, 2013, wakingdream from Allentown, PA wrote:

I am entering my fourth summer expecting to do battle with these tunneling wasps. They excavate large amounts of subsoil, disturbing roots of garden vegetables and perennials, in order to make tunnels and store cicadas there as food for their offspring. The piles of orange clay soil are substantial and do not wash away with rain. I began trapping the wasps in jars in 2011. Last year I caught 68 of them in my back yard (one third acre). Is this an infestation? It feels like it. I have not been stung. I use a large glass jar placed over their tunnel opening and pour a fast stream of water into it to make them fly out and up into the jar. They are making a big mess of my garden beds and being an organic grower, I will not apply any chemical controls. It takes some intestinal fortitude to... read more


On Jul 17, 2012, n00b from Glendive, MT wrote:

There were maybe 50 to 75 or more of them along with more regular wasps on my neighbor's Chinese Elm & scared the daylights out of me so I told him about them without doing any research. He then bought a can of Wasp spray & used it early next morning, then started cutting tree down. It's about half dead anyway, did the Cicada kill it? I'm sure it was healthy last year.Just yesterday I found out from extension agent what they were so have left a note on neighbors door before he buys another can of spray, although I'm sure he'll want to kill the hoards of regular wasps when he goes to finish cutting tree down.


On May 18, 2011, beentaken from Friendswood, TX wrote:

Glad to have found this site! We just spotted one of these critters today south of Houston, TX. Scared the fire out of us at first, but after reading up on it, we now realize it's not such a beast.


On Feb 2, 2011, alblueheron from Tampa, FL wrote:

to panicum:
The cicada killer feeds on the yearly cicadas, not the periodical species. The periodical species emerges, mates, and most of them die before the cicada killers emerge.
The yearly cicadas also spend ten or more years feeding on the roots of trees, but they hatch asynchronously so that there is a brood of cicadas each year.
A female cicada killer will provide her female eggs with two to four cicadas, while she will provide her male eggs with a single cicada.
A single cicada killer will kill upwards of 100 cicadas in her lifetime, and a colony may be composed of 100 or more cicada killers - that is 10,000 cicadas that are not available to slash the twigs of trees and whose offspring will not be feeding on the roots of those trees for ten to twelve ye... read more


On Jan 14, 2011, themikeman from Concord, NC (Zone 7a) wrote:

I have witnessed a cicada killer chase down, sting, and kill a female ruby throated hummingbird, and had to listen to this poor humingbird scream in agony before she died. I had discussed this with several quote insect and pest experts online before i found daves garden, and they told me i was mistaken, that these might chase hummingbirds away from the feeders but not sting them as they are docile, which is an incorrect falicy, as they are wrong, as i witnessed this stinging and murder with my own two eyes and as ive stated, had to horrifyingly listen to it. Every year these bastard cicada killer wasps make holes or nests in the ground under my back porch and come out and get into my feeders year after year even since this tradgedy. everyyear i spray the ground, which works temporarily, bu... read more


On May 25, 2009, panicum from Winston Salem, NC wrote:

As many times as we might hear that the male cannot sting and the female is not aggressive, that is one scary bug! The tunnel mounds in a lawn can be a nuisance for mowing, and they leave an ugly dirt stain area for a long time. I have not noticed their abundance being as periodic as the cicadas they depend on: they are there every year. And there are other wasps that dig tunnels too; we have a large indigo black one that makes almost as big a mess. Why people always call these Japanese Hornets, dunno; I may have never seen those. The three yellow bands are easily distinctive for ours.



On Aug 11, 2008, joylily514 from Katy, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

Thanks for identifying this amazing looking insect. I lived in the Dallas area for years, but I never saw it there. I moved to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia 3 years ago, and have just been seeing these really big wasps in my yard. Since I am an organic gardener, I almost always leave the bugs in my yard alone, unless it's Japanese Beetles and those I hand pick. I'm going to watch them more closely now and see if I can find any nests. I would love to see one carrying a cicada away. That would be a truly incredible sight.


On Oct 10, 2007, said from Chapel Hill, TN wrote:

double, and triple "ICK!!" these bugs are the weirdest things yet. they were staying under our ground porch made of wood, and were dragging the dead cicada's through the slats in the board. it had about 5 dead cicada's on the top side, and it kept flying around in circles trying to get it through the wood. they are extremely huge and look gross, and i believe they are quite dumb. and where did they evolve? i haven't ever seen them before, maybe a couple last year, but this year there were many more! yikes!!


On Aug 7, 2007, Ckelgo from Beloit, WI wrote:

We have had this 'Ground Hornet' in our area for about 20 years that I can remember. Just recently started seeing them again Summer 2006.

Visited Centennial Park in Peru, IL, and they were everywhere! I had never seen the mounds until I came to that park. (Approx. 1,000 sq. ft. area had about 15 mounds)

I thought someone spilled dry cement, but one of my cousins said they were ground hornet mounds. When I saw them flying around, I knew they were the same as what we had at home (Beloit, WI).

Now that I saw the regional list, it seems that these ground hornets, or cicada killers as they are also known, Wisconsin is the farthest north that they have been seen. They don't appear to be aggressive, and are just a wonder to see! I had never seen a be... read more


On Aug 3, 2006, babybluesntn from Hendersonville, TN (Zone 7b) wrote:

I observed two mounds of fresh dirt near each other in our back yard. While working near these mounds, I saw these huge hornet-like wasps flying low to the ground near the mounds. I watched one and saw that it was dragging a cicada beneath it. As I continued to watch, it found a hole in the grass beneath all that dirt, to my amazement, and drug the cicada down into it.

This is a nasty looking creature--the pictures already posted are exactly what mine look like but my dirt mounds are different.

I researched to find out what it was, and of course, found out that it is called a cicada killer. There is a good informational article on the U. of KY website under Entomology if you desire to know more.


On Jul 25, 2006, Vee8ch from Palm Bay, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Cicada Killer, Giant Ground Hornet, Specius speciosus (Drury)..........

Cicada killers, or giant ground hornets, are among the largest wasps in Florida (up to 40 mm in length). The females of the common Florida species, Sphecius speciosus (Drury), hunt Tibicen spp. cicadas and can dig 4-foot burrows in the ground with several branches and cells..........

The fertilized female begins the reproductive cycle by making burrows 0.3 to 1.2 meters in length, with numerous branches and cells. The front legs rake the soil which is pushed out behind the female with her hind legs, resulting in a large dirt mound. From one to four cicadas per cell are deposited depending on the size of the cicada..........

One egg is placed on the last cicada in each nest. ... read more