Cicada Killer at Large

I heard an Annual Cicada calling from somewhere in the trees around my house about two weeks ago. I saw one this past Sunday (6/24). I’ve yet to hear or see one at the Museum.

On Tuesday June 26, I saw the first of the season Cicada Killer in front of the Butterfly House here at the Museum. If you’re thinking that this cicada killer is a bit early since the object of the wasp’s attention, cicadas, are not even on the scene yet, you may be right.

Cicada Killers are back in town.

But wait, this wasp, the one that I saw on Tuesday, looks to be a male Cicada Killer. It’s the females who hunt cicadas, stow them in a burrow underground and lay eggs upon them for their larvae to consume. The males emerge first, stake out territories and await the female’s emergence, about two weeks later.

The adults, both male and female Cicada Killers, feed on nectar and plant sap so the fact that there are no cicadas about is not ctritical to our male’s survival. It will become critical to the female after she emerges, or rather critical to the survival of her young in the burrow she will later dig for their nest.

If you want to have a look at this large brown-black and yellow wasp, it may still be at the same location. There is a paved path between the Farm Yard and the Butterfly House. There are two 6 x 6 posts which hold a chain across the path. The wasp was staking a claim on the rocks at the base of the 6 x 6 post on the left.

The wasp hovering above the rocks at the base of the gate post in between the Farm Yard and Butterfly House.

Let me know what you find. And don’t worry, the males don’t have a stinger so they can’t harm you. They may buzz you but it’s all for show, or perhaps curiosity?

Even if it were a female, these wasps are not particularly aggressive towards humans. Their stingers are for paralyzing cicadas, not to use as weapons in protecting the hive as in yellowjackets and hornets, which will come after you if you molest them or their hive.

Good luck.


This morning (6/28), while out at “Into the Mist” watching members enjoy the misty coolness of the exhibit I saw another Cicada Killer. This one had to be a female, it was remarkably large (females are typically larger than males). It appeared to be searching for a suitable place to make a burrow.

Moments later as I was walking down the path which leads from Catch the Wind into Explore the Wild I heard a cicada. It looks as though the season has begun!

4 responses to Cicada Killer at Large

  1. Mary says:

    Thanks for the cicada killer answers to my questions. I will definately look for it at Bushy Run, Which is by my house. So then it is possible to see them in my backyard. We have lots of trees and gardens.

    • Greg Dodge says:

      Yes, you might see them in your yard. If you have plant beds which are easy for the wasp to dig into they may make their burrows in your yard. Sandy soil is good.

  2. Mary says:

    How large are the Cicada Killers? The picture makes them look huge. I’m from Penn. are they up here in PA?

    • Greg Dodge says:

      I estimated the one in the photo to be about 30 – 35 mm long. I believe the females can be from 35 – 50 mm in length.
      And yes, they are in Pennsylvania. Look along the edge of the parking lot at Bushy Run in about two weeks.

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