Did You Know? Incredible Cicada Killer Wasp Facts

Cicada killer wasps facts for kids to learn and enjoy

Cicada killer wasps, whose scientific name is, Sphecius speciosus (Drury), is a species of wasps that are known to feed on cicada larvae. They are popularly known as cicada killers due to the fact that their diet comprises of cicadas and  larvae. This category of wasps is largely found in the regions of northern America, Central America, Mexico, including others. Some people also confuse cicada killers with other hornets or specifically murderous hornets due to similarity in appearance. With a size so small, cicada killers can still manage to paralyze their prey with their sting (only done by females). Those that belong to the genus Sphecius speciosus (Drury) can be largely called eastern cicada killers since they have a lot of other varieties too.

On an average, Eastern cicada killer wasps can grow to be around 1-1.5 in long. The life cycle of a generation of cicada killers is only around a year. After reading about the interesting facts on cicada killers sphecius, you may also look at Earwig and Praying Mantis articles.

Cicada killer wasp

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Cicadas, wasps

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

1 egg

How much do they weigh?

0.002 lb

How long are they?

2 in

How tall are they?

1.5 in

What do they look like?

Brown or black with yellow markings or stripes throughout their body

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Other insects, birds, small mammals

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Areas that have access to good sunlight, well-drained and light-textured soils, and trees


Eastern and the Midwest United States, Central America, and Mexico





Scientific Name

Sphecius speciosus





Cicada Killer Wasp Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a cicada killer wasp?

A cicada killer wasp is essentially a wasp, an insect. However, it is often confused with hornets, including categories like murderous hornets and sand hornets. But there are significant differences due to which killer wasps are present in other genera as compared to hornets.

What class of animal does a cicada killer wasp belong to?

Cicada killer wasps belong to the insects class. They are insects and have a hard exoskeleton and lay eggs. These solitary wasps prefer to live alone or in small groups.

How many cicada killer wasps are there in the world?

There are about 22 species of the cicada killer wasps of which one of the major ones are Eastern cicada killer wasps (Sphecius speciosus Drury) but the exact population of the entire species is unknown.

Where does a cicada killer wasp live?

A cicada killer wasp can live anywhere with proper sunlight and light-textured and well-drained soils usually with trees nearby them. They are also known to dig up areas to form their burrow in sandy areas with sandy soils or other loose soils like clay. Their burrows can also be found in gardens, flower beds, and such areas. Female cicada killer wasps can also share their burrows, also known as their nest, with other females.

What is a cicada killer wasp's habitat?

Cicada killers are largely a part of the region of Eastern and Central America, Mexico, and such regions to name a few where they prepare a burrow in well-drained soil. In the mid-western US, the cicada killer wasps are known as the western cicada killer wasps (Sphecius grandis). These insets can also be found in burrows across Florida, the Caribbean, and South America.

Who do cicada killer wasp live with?

Unlike other wasps or hornets, cicada killer wasps are solitary wasps and are known to stay together in a burrow than form groups. This is also why they are not very defensive about their nest and why they don’t try to protect their nests from enemies like the other wasps or bees. However, female cicada wasps are known to share their burrow with another female at times.

How long does a cicada killer wasp live?

A cicada killer wasp might live as long as about 11-13 months in the wild. However, if held captive, they can only live for a few hours after which they die.

How do they reproduce?

The male cicada killer wasp tries to lure in the female cicada wasp that comes into his area. After which, they mate. A male cicada killer wasp can mate with more than one female cicada killer at a time. After about three to four days, it lays an egg. A cicada killer wasp can give birth to only one generation before they die. Most of the time, the young one stays inside his nest for about ten months after the egg hatches. In the remaining time that he goes out of the nest, they mate, reproduce, and die.

What is their conservation status?

They are not extinct and are not of much concern as their existence is under control. There is a sufficient population of cicada killer wasps.

Cicada Killer Wasp Fun Facts

What do cicada killer wasp look like?

A cicada killer wasp looks like any other hornet or wasp. They have a dark brown or black body, which is covered with yellow markings or stripes. In addition to this, the wings are a little brown. This makes them look a little similar to the sand hornets. Many people confuse the western cicada killer wasps with hornets, but there is a significant difference in the size.

Cicada Killers sting the tarantulas and pull them into the burrows.

How cute are they?

With their small size and the ability of the females to sting you, they form as one of the many hornets or bees that don’t please people much. So, they aren’t that cute at all. Some people even find them gross and scary to look at.

How do they communicate?

Like other wasps, cicada killer wasps also communicate using their humming sounds. Also, the colors on their wings and bodies make them look scary and avoid any predators. Although the male cicada killer wasps cannot sting, the females sting their predators.

How big is a cicada killer wasp?

A cicada killer wasp is about 1.5 in long and can also be up to be 2 in long. This makes them about 7.15 times bigger than the house fly.

How far can a cicada killer wasp fly?

A cicada killer wasp usually starts flying in the morning and comes back to its burrow only in the night. During the nighttime, it stays inside.

How much does a cicada killer wasp weigh?

Being a wasp, a cicada killer wasp is very light. It weighs only about 0.002 lb. Although the size of the female cicadas are almost twice as the male cicada wasp, their weight does not increase much and is known to be quite less.

What are their male and female names of the species?

The cicada bug (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae) does not have a specific name associated with its male and female gender. The males are called male cicada killer wasp and a female wasp is called female cicada killer wasp.

What would you call a baby cicada killer wasp?

The baby cicada killer wasp is generally referred to as the larvae when it is too young but it also does not have any other name associated with itself.

What do they eat?

The adult cicada killer wasps can rely on nectar and such foods, but their larvae require them to prey on cicadas, too. Their mothers hunt down those cicadas for them to feast on. However, they have many predators, including humans, birds, and other small mammals.

Are they dangerous?

Cicadias are not known to be hostile towards humans. If you agitate them or disturb them, they will get aggressive towards you. Male cicada killers cannot sting. However, the females can sting you when agitated. The sting of the female cicada killer wasps can paralyze other wasps when it stings them. It is not easy to control the behavior of the species even after they have been domesticated.

Would they make a good pet?

No cicada bugs will not make good pets. This is because they are not the best wasp to domesticate, and once captive, they can only survive for some hours. Despite that, they are pests and are not considered a good option for domestication.

Did you know...

A female cicada killer wasp can determine the sexual orientation of the larvae even before it is fully developed. This is done because female cicada killers are more useful for the species.

Should you kill cicada killer wasps?

They can disturb your flower beds with their nests or burrows. Therefore that becomes a reason why humans kill them. Also, they are seen as pests, seen as uninviting to most people.

Are cicada killer wasps helpful?

Cicada killer wasps can be helpful for the pollination process. Also, they can kill cicadas and therefore balance the pests population in the world and maintain a natural balance.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other arthropods including Lord Howe Island insect, or Stick Bug.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Cicada Killer Wasp coloring pages.



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