The Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp

Bentley Fitzpatrick  |  7/31/2017 1:19:25 PM

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The eastern cicada killer wasp, Sphecius speciosus, is a large, solitary digger wasp that typically appears in Louisiana mid to late July. It is a beneficial insect that is a predator of cicadas, which it stings and stuns to store in her burrow to feed her larvae.

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Eastern cicada killer wasps range in size from 1.25 to 2 inches in length. Males are smaller and on the lower end of that scale while the females are larger and on the upper end of that scale. Pictured above is a male.

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Males display aggressive behavior towards each other to defend its territory. Although this behavior may be intimidating, males lack stingers and pose no threat or harm to humans or pets.

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Although she appears and sounds menacing, the female eastern cicada killer is relatively docile. She spends her life preoccupied with digging her tunnel and catching cicadas. She requires great provocation before she will sting a human or pet (like catching and squeezing in a bare hand or biting). Her venom is designed specifically to stun cicadas without killing them, so even if a human or animal is stung, it lacks the painfulness associated with the sting of a paper wasp. Some may still be allergic to the venom of the eastern cicada killer, so provocation is not recommended.

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