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Western Cicada Killer (Sphecius grandis)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Western Cicada Killer.

 Updated: 8/23/2019; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




The robust body and large size of a Western Cicada Killer can alarm anyone recognizing it as a wasp, but its focus is on the mid-air raids that will feed its young.



Western Cicada Killers are one of four type of Cicada Killers. These large wasps are efficient hunters of the loud, plentiful, and nutritious cicadas that buzz through summertime. They attack flying cicadas, a noisy battle that can sometimes be heard by the humans below. Once captured, the cicada is placed near a fertilized egg where it will serve as food for the emerging wasp larva. Females dig their nests in the ground, creating a labyrinth of tunnels, each one ending with an egg and its meal. The earth mounds at the entrance and may be mistaken for a mole or chipmunk hole. Look for these nests near areas laden with cicadas.

Western Cicada Killers are native to the western U.S. states and Mexico. They are orange and yellow, a color combination not usually associated with wasps. Though adult females kill cicadas for their offspring, male and female adults drink nectar.
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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Sphecidae
          Genus: Sphecius
            Species: grandis
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Sphecius grandis
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 30mm to 50mm (1.17in to 1.95in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: orange, yellow, brown
Descriptors: buzzing, flying, ground, large, dots, bands
Territorial Map
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Prince Edward Is.  
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
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Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
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Mexico
Note: 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 as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.




Ant, Bee, and Wasp Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of both a bee and an ant insect
1
Antennae: Ants and Bees both have a pair of antennae on the head that senses their surroundings.
2
Head: The head contains the insect's compound eyes, antennae, and mandibles.
3
Thorax: Contains various vital parts such as the aorta and nervous system.
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Abdomen: Contains various organs including the heart, gut, venom glands, and anus.
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Legs: Ants and Bees have three pairs of legs attached to the thorax (center-body section).
NOTE: Ants, Bees and Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order because they share many similarities.