Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cicada Killer Wasp

I was eliminating some of the wasps that cruise around the milkweed plants looking for caterpillars, when a very large insect started flying around some of the holes the Armadillo had dug. At first, I thought it was a Hummingbird Moth…but once it landed I saw it was a huge wasp.

I started looking for it on www.bugguide.org and it is a Cicada Killer Wasp. I was unable to get a picture of that one, but today this one landed on the blind outside. It is much smaller than the one I first saw digging a burrow.


The width of the slat in this blind is 5/16, just a little over a quarter of an inch. Gives you an idea how large this wasp is.

It is a solitary wasp, and digs a burrow that can have several nest cells. A male egg is laid on one cicada but a female gets 2 or 3 cicadas. The female is twice the size of the male and needs more food.

The female can sting but is not aggressive. The male cannot sting but might give you that impression when he is defending his territory by buzzing you a bit, and their size can be impressive when they are flying near you. I just stood still and tried to get a picture.


Since they prey upon cicadas, they are welcome here. I won’t bother them as long as they don’t start developing a taste for caterpillars.

I love the markings on it’s back. Kind of pretty…huh?


I was surprised to learn that the Cow Killer, a velvet ant like wingless wasp, will lay it’s egg in a Cicada Killer’s nest and when it’s larva emerges it becomes food for the Cow Killer larva.

I’ve seen the red velvet Cow Killer but never realized it was actually a wasp. Just looks like a big red fuzzy ant, and they are said to have a very painful sting. So don’t mess with big red fuzzy ants.


  1. Really is a big circle of life.

  2. Pretty, but a bit ferocious looking!

  3. I saw a bunch of sandy burrows recently with large red wasps flying out from them. I'm wondering if they were the same as yours. Huge!! They didn't seem to be aggressive, but I stayed back anyway. I think it's so interesting that we can live so long and still not have seen everything there is to see. Nice photos!


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