Cicada killer wasps make annual return 2012.07.25

Written by David Green.

cicada killerNo matter what you call them—cicada killers or sand hornets—the two-inch wasps look pretty scary.

Anna Kerns brought a deceased cicada killer into the Observer office Monday with the intent of warning other residents to be on the lookout—particularly children running barefoot through the grass.

The large wasps are often spotted this time of the year buzzing around their nests—a burrow dug in the ground by the females. Male wasps aggressively defend the nesting area, but they have no stingers. They appear to be ready to attack anything that moves, but their only concern is other male wasps. Males can jab with a sharp spine, but they’re not capable of stinging.

In fact, some people refer to the wasps as “gentle giants” that aren’t really interested in humans at all. They tend to fly away when swatted at rather than attack, but their fast-moving presence easily causes concern.

The females will sting, however, if stepped on or caught in clothing. Otherwise, a sting is unlikely. Anyone allergic to bee stings should seek medical attention.

Cicadas killers prefer dry, sandy soil and may be controlled by keeping your lawn well watered, especially in the area where they’re burrowing.

The wasps make their appearance when the calls of the cicada are heard. The female wasp will sting a cicada and bring it the nest for the wasp larvae to consume. The adult wasps feed on flower nectar.

Get brave and place a chair near a nest. Eventually you’ll see a large wasp carrying a cicada and dragging it underground to feed the children.

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