Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hornet? Wasp? What is It?

Have you been seeing these large wasps or hornets lately. I have had several on my back porch lately.

Well, our friend, Chris Wiesinger (aka the Bulb Hunter) of the Southern Bulb Company has found out what this thing is. 

Check out his post here: Cicada Killer

How dangerous are cicada-killer wasps? Cicada-killers are actually quite harmless.  Usually the cicada-killers you see zooming around are the males, which cannot sting.  A male stinger is a modified ovipositor; no male ants, bees, or wasps can sting.  To be stung by a female cicada-killer you need to either step barefoot on her or grab her with bare hands. 

This species nests in loose sandy soil where the female, after mating, will dig a burrow. She digs the soil with her jaws and moves it out of the burrow with her hind legs as she backs out. Chambers are located at the end of the borrow and each are large enough for a few cicadas. The female will paralyze a cicada, which are captured in flight, hold it upside down and fly to the burrow. You can imagine how difficult it must be flying all the while carrying something twice your weight! Women get all the difficult jobs, don't they, Ginger Rogers?

After depositing the "live" paralyzed cicada in the burrow, the female deposits an egg on the cicada and closes the round cell. Male eggs are laid on a single egg; female eggs are given two or sometimes more cicadas (this is because the female wasp is twice as large as the male and need more food). Eggs hatch in 1-2 days and the larvae eat the cicadas. Larvae grow for about 2 weeks and then spin a cocoon of silk and soil which remains in the burrow over the winter. Pupation happens in the nest in spring and the males appear first (around June or July) and mating takes place when the females emerge from the soil. The wasps die off in September or October. There is only one generation per year.

Predators of the cicada wasp include the velvet ant and humans.


  1. Wow...l that's amazing. I've seen those around, but did not know about them.
    Thanks for the info.

  2. You have given me something new to look for. Yikes!
    Very interesting info. Thanks! Eva

  3. I had some of these in my yard a couple of years ago. They were scary! I didn't realize that the velvet ant was a predator of the cicada killer wasps. I have seen fewer velvet ants in the past few years. Perhaps that's why the cicada killer wasps seem to be more numerous! In reading your post, I'm amazed at these wasps - their survival is completely tied to capturing a cicada!