Insect Identification
Insect Identification

Cicada Killer - (Sphecius speciosus)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 7/23/2015

The large Cicada Killer is a wasp that rarely stings humans. It is a ruthless predator of Cicadas and saves its sting for them.

Cicada Killers earned their common name for good reason. They will hunt down flying Cicadas and attack them in-flight. The Cicada may buzz and try to escape, but if the Cicada Killer catches them, it will sting them and fly them back to their nest for consumption. Even their larvae eat Cicadas. Adults also drink flower nectar. The larger the population of Cicadas, the more likely you will see Cicada Killers partaking of the abundance.

The fast and large Cicada Killer looks intimidating to people, but it rarely stings people that leave it alone. They are sometimes considered a nuisance because they build their nests in the ground, making it difficult to play outside or mow the lawn in that area. The nests are sometimes mistaken to be small animal burrows, but activity by the wasps entering and leaving eventually makes it apparent who it living in it.

They are mostly seen in the summer and females work together to dig out nests underground before laying eggs in the tunnels. Cicadas that are caught are placed inside the tunnels near an egg so that the hatching wasp larva has something to eat.

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Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Common name: Cicada Killer
Scientific Name: Sphecius speciosus
Other Names: Giant Cicada Killer

  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
     Order: Hymenoptera
      Family: Sphecidae
       Genus: Sphecius
        Species: speciosus

Adult Size (Length): 30mm to 50mm (1.18in to 1.97in)

Identifying Colors: black; yellow; brown; orange

Additional Descriptors: stinger, stripes, hornet, wasp, buzzing, large, flying, stinging

North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Arkansas; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Nebraska; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec

* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.