Cicada killers are large wasps that are commonly found outdoors around residential properties. They create holes that tunnel into the ground, taking preference to dry, sandy soil in places such as patches of grass and dry dirt around the yard. Their presence can be alarming due to their large size, but they are not harmful to humans or pets unless disturbed. Cicada killers are beneficial to our environment as they reduce the cicada population, lessening the harm and damage done to nearby vegetation. If you believe that you are seeing cicada killers or holes in your yard, read below to learn more about their identification, habits, and behaviors, and what you can do.
What does a cicada killer look like?
Adult cicada killers are typically 1-2 inches in length. Their size relative to other wasps is very large, which is usually why people are afraid of them. Cicadas themselves range between ¾-2 inches in length which is very similar to the cicada killer. The paralyzing venom of a cicada killer gives them the opportunity to catch a cicada mid-air and carry to their nest to eat.
Cicada killers are big wasps with orange wings and a black body marked with horizontal yellow bands. Their unique coloring set them aside from other flying pests that nest in the ground.
Cicadas congregate in bushes and trees around residential homes, which attracts cicada killers. The females search tree trunks and lower limbs for cicadas. The wasp then stings its prey and drags it or glides with it to the burrow. There on average, each nest consists of 15 egg-shaped side chambers, each containing an egg as well as 1-3 paralyzed cicadas. Depending on the number of cicadas in its cell, the larva feeds for 4-10 days until only the cicada's outer shell remains. During the fall, the larva spins a silken case, shrinks, and prepares to overwinter. Only one generation occurs each year.
How can I tell if I have cicada killers?
Cicada killers are commonly misidentified as other flying insects that nest in the ground such as yellow jackets and ground bees. They create a series of tunnels in the ground marked by a hill of dirt with a hole in the center, similar to yellow jackets and ground bees. The hole serves as an entry point for the female cicada killer to access her nest and tends to her larvae. Cicada killers have a preference for dry, sandy soil in exposed sunlight, making suburban homes a perfect breeding ground. Common places for cicada killer holes are dry patches in your lawn where dirt may be exposed, under bushes, or within the dirt in between your lawn and sidewalk. They make their appearance in the late summer months of July and August, making audible buzzing and visible free-flying.
Photo Credit: Princeton Nature News
What bug is making holes in my yard?
Yellow jackets are social wasps that nest within the ground. Unlike cicada killers, hundreds of yellow jackets can live within a single nest. They burrow into the ground and create their colony, rapidly multiplying and becoming very active. Yellow jackets are constantly coming and going out of their nest in the ground, one by one. If you see this type of activity, it’s likely that you see yellow jackets.
They are black and yellow like cicada killers but are much more slender and about ½ inch in length. These wasps can be aggressive and should be left to the pest control professionals when it comes to eradication. Treating yellow jackets on your own can force them to relocate into wall voids in human-made structures such as residential homes.
Photo Credit: bugguide.net
There are several types of ground bees that exist in the United States. Most abundant is Colletes inaequalis which you can find in our immediate New Jersey and Pennsylvania region. These ground bees are most active from April-July, which lines up directly before cicada killer activity beginning in July. Measuring only 9-13mm long, cicada killers are typically more than double their size. Like cicada killers, ground bees are solitary insects that live most literally, in solidarity within one nest. Several nests can be visible nearby as multiple females often create their tunnels near each other. They prefer sandy soils and south-facing slopes when choosing a spot to create their nests.
Are cicada killers dangerous?
Cicada killers are not harmful towards humans unless provoked. They generally do not have interest in humans and are not motivated to sting them. Cicada killers are what is called “solitary wasps,” meaning that they don’t live in large numbers within a single nest like many “social wasps” such as yellow jackets. Only one female lives within each hole without a male so there is no innate need to protect a queen.
Are there any DIY options?
Cooper does not suggest that you attempt to treat cicada killer activity on your own. Without professional pest control intervention, it is most likely that the infestation will persist. Prevention is the key to avoiding cicada killer populations at your home. Let the grass in your yard grow a little bit longer in July and August when cicada killers are most likely to invade. Perform visual inspections on a regular basis, looking out for their holes.
How can Cooper help?
The damage that cicada killers cause is only the small mounds of dirt around your lawn. A single cicada killer will only create one hole. However multiple cicada killers have been known to create their nests nearby. If you are bothered by their presence, Cooper Pest Solutions offers two options for the best cicada killer service in the area.
If you would like to treat your home for cicada killer activity, Cooper can provide a single treatment to eliminate the existing females from your property. Because male cicada killers do not create nests in the ground, there is no guarantee that the males will stop free-flying. The holes in the ground created by the females will be treated individually. It is important to note that this treatment can only be performed once to treat existing holes. Cooper cannot guarantee this service beyond the initial treatment because new holes can be created from new cicada killer populations that find their way on to your property.
Cooper’s Home Intensive Program is a quarterly general maintenance service that targets over 20 common household pests including cicada killers. This program provides treatment for your property with the same application of the One-Time Cicada Killer Service
The Home Intensive Program is both a reactive and preventative pest control program. One of our state-certified technicians will visit your home on a quarterly basis to carefully examine for any pest activity. If pest activity exists, they will treat for all insects covered under the program. Unlimited service calls are free in between the quarterly visits if you experience pest activity.
Contact us by filling out the form to the right or give us a call at 1-800-949-2667 for more information and to receive a free no-obligation pest estimate.