If you’re in North America in mid to late summer, you might notice an abundance of large black and yellow wasps flying around your yard or local park. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll spot one of these wasps with a chubby green, black & white Tibicen cicada in its grasp.
These wasps are appropriately named Cicada Killer Wasps. There are many species of Cicada Killer Wasps, but the most well known is the Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp (Sphecius speciosus). These wasps paralyze and bring the cicadas to their burrow, where the cicada is used as food for a Cicada Killer Wasp larvae. The best Cicada Killer Wasp resource on the web is Prof. Chuck Holliday’s Biology of cicada killer wasps. If you’re interested in these wasps, visit Prof. Holiday’s site now.
People fear these wasps because they are large and we tend to fear stinging insects, but truthfully these wasps are not interested in stinging people — they are interested in stinging cicadas. Unlike more aggressive species of stinging insects, Cicada Killer Wasps will probably only sting you if you step on, harass or otherwise physically contact the creature. If you don’t want to be stung, don’t harass the wasps. Not need to panic. No need to bomb your local environment with pesticides.
Take a look at this stunning picture of a Cicada Killer Wasp holding a cicada while perched on Elias Bonaros’ finger. Neither Elias or the wasp was harmed. The cicada was harmed and likely eaten by a wasp larva.
Elias recorded this footage of a Cicada Killer “mating ball”. If you weren’t terrified by the image of the Cicada Killer clutching the Tibicen on Elias’ finger wasn’t scary enough, check this out:
Another video of a Cicada Killer Wasp
Cicada Killer from Cicada Mania on Vimeo.
I live in New Mexico and think we have a bunch of Cicada killers around our yard. Everything I have read says they stay East of the Rockies. Could they be here in New Mexico?
@Jen, it could be. If you have some photos, send them to email@example.com
question for you. worked on Hamilton Island, years ago. there was a wasp that I’ve only ever seen there. its easily the size of the Cicada Killer. but its colours were flat, not shiny. a flat greyish black with reddish orange bands. they made solitary mud nests on the windows of the shop i worked in. was NOT a fan!
@Craig. Maybe Abispa ephippium?
bees are scary
Hi The cicadas are on a 17 year cycle. It sounds like from the media you don’t see any of them for years and then they emerge. So what do the little cicada killing wasp larvae eat in the off years?
The 17 year cicada don’t have a cicada killer wasp that attacks them. Only the summer-time annuals have to worry about the wasp.
Don’t head to China if you’re scared of big wasps. Asian Giant Hornets are just as large, and unlike Cicada Killers, will not hesitate to sting humans who come too close.
I would never be cought dead holding or being near a cicada.I HATE those things.I fear those things and i hate the annoying sound but to be honest some times i find it interesting.
I think I saw one of these wasps yesterday and the day before. It was HUUUUGE!!! Never in my 42 years have I seen one and I grew up in this town. I’m sorry if I see that thing flying near me–I’m headed for china! No need to kill it, I won’t stick around long enough! 🙂
Thank you Molly for your kind compliment and for Dan for posting and reposting my crazy picture. Cicada Killers are truly gentle giants and one has nothing to fear (unless you are a cicada of course). I am also grateful to Professor Chuck Holliday who taught me how to admire these amazing wasps. His website is definitely worth checking out!!
As I always say, those with Bee/Wasp venom allergies should NEVER try this. The odds of a sting if the wasp is handled gently are virtually non-existent.
Sorry but I’m a Cicada fan and don’t like any flying insect with a stinger!
Elias! This is incredible!