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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



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Image Credit: Destinnee R. from Tucson, AZ
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Image Credit: Destinnee R. from Tucson, AZ
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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.



Updated: 07/15/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Rounded insect body icon
Striped or banded insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Sphecidae
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          Genus: Sphecius
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            Species: grandis
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Sphecius grandis
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 30mm to 50mm (1.18" to 1.96")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: orange, yellow, brown
Descriptors: buzzing, flying, ground, large, dots, bands
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 30mm (1.2in) and 50mm (2.0in)
Lo: 30mm
Md: 40mm
Hi: 50mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Western Cicada Killer may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Western Cicada Killer. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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