Understanding the Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp

Cicada Killer Wasp on a Blade Of Grass

Are Cicada Killers Harmless?

Meet the Cicada Killer! These wasps may look intimidating but looks can be deceiving. Cicada Killer wasps pose little to no risk to humans and pets. They’re non-aggressive and do not share the same strong nest-protecting insects as other wasps. Females are only known to sting when handled directly.

Cicada Killers are easily identified by their size and coloration. They are the largest solitary wasps in New England, reaching a whopping 2 inches in length. They have a reddish head and thorax (upper body) and a deep black abdomen (lower body) with three pairs of bright yellow markings.

Adult cicada killers are most active for a short window in Summer, usually between late June and Early July, and will die off in the early Fall.  The significantly smaller male cicada killers emerge first to engage in dazzling aerial combat with each other to win territory and mates. This display can appear threatening to humans, but the male wasps have neither stingers nor venom and are virtually harmless. Once they have mated, the female will set out to search for a nesting site.

Cicada killers prefer to nest in warm, dry, sandy areas with little to no shade cover.  They also like to be relatively close to trees that harbor cicadas, such as oak, maple, and ash.  Unfortunately, this means that cicada killers nest near playgrounds, sandboxes, patios, and gravel parking lots where they often cross paths with humans. These agile flyers can cause alarm when they dart around humans while chasing their prey or tending to their nests. Understandably, people are frightened when they see gigantic wasps darting around them and will often look for a way to get rid of them.

Cicada Killers will sting cicadas to paralyze them in mid-flight and drag them away to be devoured by their larvae

Is it Good to Have Cicada Killers in Your Yard?

Yes! If you don’t have an allergy and/or make a habit of trying to catch them with your bare hands, you are very unlikely to be harmed by them. In addition to controlling the cicada population, they are also important native pollinators. Leaving them alive may even help you keep a healthier garden.

Coexistence is possible and relatively simple. Avoid stepping directly on their nests (especially with bare feet) and don’t try to catch, smash, or provoke them. In short: if you mind your business, they’ll mind theirs.

Cicada Killer Pollinating A Flower Alongside A Honey Bee

Should I Kill Cicada Killers?

Cicada killers, classified as non-structural pests, do not pose a threat to the integrity of buildings and therefore fall outside the scope of services provided by Modern Pest Services, which focuses on pests that can cause structural damage or pose significant health risks. If you’re considering whether to control Cicada killers, it’s generally advisable to avoid killing them if possible. However, there are understandable concerns about having large wasps nesting on your property. Here are a few effective strategies to prevent Cicada Killers from establishing around your home:

Make your yard inhospitable

Cicada Killers and other burrowing solitary wasps prefer poor soil quality. Sandy soil devoid of roots and plant matter is ideal for their nests. Fertilizing your lawn, planting thick-rooted native grasses, and seeding in the fall can keep them from viewing your yard as an option when they select nesting sites in the Summer.

Cicada Killers Are No Match For Thick Roots And Moist Soil

Hose them down

Over-the-counter insecticides can work, but they can potentially harm beneficial non-target insect species. Keeping your yard moist can deter cicada killers from nesting there in the first place, as well as drive adults away from their burrows. As previously mentioned, Cicada killers do not have a strong nest-protection drive and will simply abandon their nest and larvae if they get too wet. You may wait until after dark when the wasps are inactive and pour water into the mouth of each burrow. This should kill the larvae and cause the adult to seek a new nesting site

Remove overwintering pupae

You may also choose to dig up the young cicada killers so that they don’t populate the yard next Summer. Mark each burrow at night with a plastic knife then wait until Fall when the adults have died off. Dig up each burrow and discard the pupae.


While Modern Pest Services does not offer treatments for Cicada Killers, these insects can typically be managed safely and effectively on your own, either by coexisting with them or removing them in an environmentally friendly way. However, if you’re facing challenges with more aggressive wasps such as yellow jackets, European hornets, or bald-faced hornets, immediate professional intervention is crucial. Contact us for a complimentary consultation and receive a detailed treatment plan tailored to ensure your safety and peace of mind.