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Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the Cicada Killer, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 2/15/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Cicada Killer  
Picture of Cicada-Killer

The large Cicada Killer is a wasp that very rarely attacks humans, however, dispatching Cicadas may be its favorite pastime.

Yellow and Black Cicada Killers earned their common name for good reason. This large wasp hunts down Cicadas in mid-air and attacks them while flying. The Cicada may buzz and try to escape, but if the Cicada Killer catches hold of it, a quick sting immobilizes the Cicada, and both fly back to wasp's nest for offspring to consume. Adult Cicada Killers drink flower nectar. The larger the population of Cicadas in an area, the more likely you will see Cicada Killers taking them down.

The fast and hefty Cicada Killer looks intimidating, but it rarely stings people who 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 for small animal burrows, but wasp activity by the hole should make it apparent that a wide berth is prudent. They are mostly seen in the summer when females work together to dig out nests underground before laying eggs in the tunnels.

Picture of the Cicada Killer
Picture of the Cicada Killer

Cicada Killer Information

Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Common Name: Cicada Killer
Scientific Name: Sphecius speciosus
Other Name(s): Giant Cicada Killer

Taxonomy Hierarchy

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

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 30 mm to 50 mm (1.17 inches to 1.95 inches)
Identifying Colors: black; yellow; brown; orange
Additional Descriptors: stinger, stripes, hornet, wasp, buzzing, large, flying, stinging

North American Territorial 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

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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