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cicada killer wasp on leaf

What to Know About the Cicada Killer Wasp in Florida

In sunny Florida, the cicada killer wasp rules the summer. These big, solo flyers are famous for hunting cicadas to feed their young, but don't worry—they're gentle giants to humans.

Curious about these speedy predators and their role in our backyards? Let's zoom in on their fascinating world!

Key Takeaways

  • Cicada killer wasps in Florida are large, solitary insects with distinct black and yellow markings, recognized for their ecological importance.
  • Despite their intimidating size, cicada killer wasps only sting when provoked. Males are unable to sting, and females sting mainly for defense.
  • Their life cycle involves laying eggs on paralyzed cicadas, growing from larvae to adults in sandy soils or lawns, especially near flower beds and open spaces.
  • Signs of an infestation include visible burrows with excavated soil and increased sightings of wasps, particularly males patrolling for mates.
  • Preventing cicada killer wasp nests involves maintaining dense, well-watered lawns, covering exposed sandy areas, and seeking professional pest control for safe removal.

How to Identify a Cicada Killer Wasp

Native to Florida, the cicada killer wasps are among the largest wasps in the Hymenoptera order.

You can recognize these insects by understanding their distinct physical characteristics and behaviors.

Physical Features

Here’s a closer look at the Cicada Killer Wasp features:




Among the largest wasps, up to 1.5 inches in length


Black body with yellow to reddish markings


Rusty-tinted, translucent


Solitary; females dig burrows to lay eggs

Behavior and Character

They are solitary wasps that may intimidate due to their size. Hence, misconceptions about their aggressiveness are common.


Males may exhibit territorial behavior, but you should remember that they do not possess a stinger. Female wasps might sting humans or honeybees but usually only do so when provoked or threatened.


Uniquely among the Sphecidae family, they provide their nests almost exclusively with the Tibicen cicadas.

Cicada Killer Wasp Life Cycle

The life cycle of these sand wasps is a fascinating journey from a solitary egg to a burrowing adult.

Here’s what each stage looks like, from eggs to adult wasps:



Egg Laying

Female cicada killer wasps seek out cicadas, paralyzing them with their sting to lay an egg on each.

Larval Stage

The egg hatches into a larva, which consumes the stored cicada and grows through several instars.

Cocoon Formation

After the larva has consumed enough food, it spins a cocoon within the foot burrows, which remains throughout the winter.

Pupal Stage

Inside the cocoon, the wasp transitions into a pupa, undergoing metamorphosis into an adult form.


As the temperatures rise in late spring to early summer, adult cicada killers emerge from the ground, ready to repeat the cycle.

Habitat in Florida

Cicada killer wasps are often spotted in the following nesting sites:

  • Sandy soils where they can burrow to create nests
  • Residential lawns, making the most of the ample open space
  • Near flower beds as they provide food in the form of nectar
  • At the edges of forests, offering a balance of open ground and plant life
  • Close to the University of Florida due to suitable nesting sites in Gainesville's landscaping

Signs of Cicada Killer Wasp Infestation

Identifying a cicada killer wasp infestation in Florida involves recognizing telltale signs of their presence.

Two of the most indicative signs include the detection of distinctive burrows and an increase in wasp activity.

Visible Burrows and Excavated Soil

They construct noticeable underground wasp nests, leaving piles of soil near entrance holes. A typical burrow entrance is characterized by:

Entrance Features



1-1.5 inches

Mound Shape


Mound Size

Variable, extending several inches around the entrance

Soil Texture

Loose and granular, clear evidence of recent excavation

Increased Cicada Killer Wasp Sightings

More frequent sightings of cicada killer wasps, particularly males patrolling the ground, can point to nearby nests.

When observing, you should note the following:

  • Time of day: Warmest parts often yield higher wasp activity.
  • Behavior patterns: Males fly closely to the ground, searching for females to mate with.

How to Keep Cicada Wasps Away

Cicada killer wasps can be a concern in Florida, particularly for those who want to maintain a pest-free environment without resorting to harsh chemical insecticides. 

Here are natural ways to discourage these insects and safe practices for their removal.

Soil Management

  • Ensure dense, well-watered lawns. They prefer well-drained, light-textured soil, and denser, moist lawns are less attractive for nesting.
  • Plant ground cover. It increases lawn density to deter nest establishment.
  • Eliminate exposed sandy areas. Use mulch or plants to cover sandy patches that attract cicada killers and other stinging insects, such as hornets, yellowjackets, and social wasps.

Safe Removal

  • Relocate small nests. Wait until dusk, cover the nest with a cloth, and relocate. Aim for minimal disturbance and risk.
  • Seek pest control professionals. They can safely remove nests and are knowledgeable about different stinging insects, such as the Asian giant hornet, and their management.


  • Avoid DIY with large nests. Incorrect handling can provoke stings. 
  • Be aware of different species. Understanding the specific wasp species, including giant ground hornets, paper wasps, and murder hornets, is crucial for correct management.

When to Call Pest Control

Imagine you're sipping a cool beverage in your lovely Florida backyard when, wham, you spot a squadron of hefty cicada killer wasps carving out burrows in your flower beds.

Remember, they're not out to get you, but if your peace of mind is at stake, don't hesitate to call professional pest control services (like us, here at Native Pest Management).