What is the Cicada Killing Wasp and Why Should it be Controlled?

des moines cicada killer wasp

The species of wasp known as the cicada-killer wasp is found in the eastern and Midwestern United States and south into Mexico and Central America. This species of wasp is so named, according to the University of Kentucky Entomology Department, because they hunt cicadas as their principle prey.

How do cicada-killing wasps behave in Des Moines?

Unlike other species of wasps, the Des Moines cicada-killing wasps do not swarm and tend to be solitary. During the summer, they are occupied with digging underground burrows where the females deposit their eggs and then provisioning the burrows with paralyzed cicadas that their larvae feed on.

A burrow can be spotted by its unique U shape around the opening. Each burrow contains 15 or so egg chambers about a foot from the entrance. Each chamber will contain an egg and between one and three paralyzed cicadas. The eggs hatch two or three days after they are laid, and then the larvae feed on the cicadas for about ten days. Then the larvae spin a cocoon and spend the winter in that state. The following summer, they emerge as fully grown wasps, and the life cycle begins all over again.

Des Moines Cicada-killing wasps are not overly aggressive in and do not have the nest-defending instincts that other species of wasps and bees have. The females have stingers with which they inject venom into cicadas to paralyze them. They will not attack humans unless roughly handled. The sting is not overly painful. However, people with allergies to wasp stings need to take care and seek immediate medical help if stung.

The male cicada-killing wasps lack stingers but tend to be fiercely territorial. The males will approach any human judged to be in their territory and make threat displays, hovering and buzzing. However, even though they are large and look intimidating, they are harmless.

Pets can encounter cicada-killing wasps and get stung. This experience will only happen once, since the pain of being stung will be associated with the bright colors and buzzing sound, and the dog or cat will learn to avoid the wasps. As with humans, sometimes a pet with an allergy to a wasp sting will get stung. It should be taken to the vet for treatment as soon as possible.

What do cicada-killing wasps look like?

Cicada-killing wasps are unusually large, measuring from 0.6 to two inches in length. They are black to reddish brown with yellow stripes. Their unusual size and their color give them an intimidating appearance.

When do you need to summon an exterminator to control cicada killers?

Cicada-killing wasps are sometimes considered beneficial because they control the cicada population, which can damage trees. However, some circumstances exist when you will want to control an infestation of cicada-killing wasps.

If any member of your family or your pets are allergic to wasp stings, it will certainly be a good idea to call in a professional to control the wasps. The principle is that an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.

Cicada-killing wasp burrows can also damage lawns and flower beds. They can displace several pounds of soil in the process, damaging walkways built on a sand foundation and interfering with the root systems of garden plants. They also have been known to dig in the sandy parts of playgrounds and sand traps at golf courses. The burrows tend to be unsightly in an otherwise well-manicured lawn.

While some people have been able to control cicada-killing wasps by keeping the soil they burrow in wet, sometimes calling a professional pest control expert is the only way to keep the species under control.

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