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How to Get Rid of Cicada Killer Wasps

Updated on July 16, 2016

Joined: 4 years agoFollowers: 73Articles: 27

If you live in Texas, you might have seen what looks like a wasp on steroids flying around your backyard. These Ground Digger Wasps, or Cicada Killers, are menacing looking bees that are up to three inches in length. They put bumble bees to shame when it comes to size.

The Ground Digger Wasp is 2-3 inches in length (closer to 3 here in Texas), with a red body and bright yellow stripe around the abdomen. They fly extremely fast and you can literally see them darting around from a great distance. They aren't overly aggressive when it comes to stinging, but they will dive-bomb you and keep going. They have a pronounced buzz, much louder than a bumble bee. Even if they don't sting, they are very frightening due to their enormous size.

They are also called Cicada Killers, as in Locust Killers. They prey on locusts and carry them back to their underground den. For those of you who know how big a locust is, can you imagine the size of a wasp that can prey on one? Scary thought, isn't it.

How to Get Rid of Them Yourself

If you only have a couple of Ground Digger Wasps flying around regularly then you can probably eliminate the problem yourself, however if you have more than 4 or 5 that are constantly around, you may need to call in an exterminator. The females are the only ones that sting supposedly, but who wants to get close enough to find out?

The easiest method for eliminating this type of pest is, first, by locating their den. Remember, they dig into the ground so you will be looking for a hole the size of a penny or nickle on parts of the yard that do not contain grass. A sign that one has burrowed into the grass is a mound that resembles an anthill, but with no ants present. Once you find these holes/mounds (there is a picture here that shows exactly what you are looking for) mark them with something like a stake, stick, or even better a plastic knife. This will make the holes easier to find at nighttime when you will do your attack.

These wasps leave their dens during the day and hunt for locusts, so it is best to wait until nighttime when they have returned back home before you try to eliminate them. Grab a flashlight and head out to the places you've marked. Then you can try one of these methods mentioned below:

  • Hornet Spray: You can buy hornet spray that shoots up to 25 feet and unload a massive amount into each hole. These wasps will sting if provoked and protecting their nests so aim good and give yourself some space between yourself and the hole.
  • Gasoline: I've read plenty of stories on the web suggesting that pouring gasoline down each hole is effective at killing them, though I've never tried this method myself. I've seen lots of information about using gasoline effective.
  • Boiling Water: Another method mentioned on the web that some people have found successful was the use of dumping boiling water down the holes. I'm kind of skeptical about the boiling water being strong enough but I haven't tried. I have my own favorite treatments mentioned further down this list.
  • Bleach: This chemical could kill the females but their eggs will probably hatch the next year
  • Ammonia : This is a favorite method of mine. Dumping ammonia down the holes and then covering the hole with a rock or brick or even filling it in will kill all the wasps in the holes, though I'm not sure it kills the eggs and upcoming ground digger wasps from hatching and appearing the next year.
  • Boric Acid: This stuff is gold in my opinion. You can buy a bottle of liquid boric acid from drug store or even some Walmarts for under $30. Plus I have ebay links where you can get some boric acid for discounted prices. When dumped down the holes, this is the only method that kills the eggs, as well as the female. So that means no returning wasps the next year. This is the only product that has been known to eliminate the eggs in order to prevent them from returning the next year.

Which methods have you tried?

See results

After you have sprayed the holes full of hornet killer/gasoline/boric acid etc, watch for a couple of days to see if there is anymore activity or any dead wasps on the ground near the holes you sprayed. If you detect dead wasps near the hole but still see a couple flying around, there is chance you missed a den somewhere. If this is the case, then you will need to search for other holes and repeat.

In order to prevent them from coming back, always keep your yard moist because they won't build nests in the ground if it is wet. If you can't seem to get rid of them on your own, you might consider hiring an exterminator to fix the problem. Exterminators have more powerful chemicals and can do a more efficient job. The only problem with hiring an exterminator is the cost.

Another Alternative

If all else fails and you would rather conquer these wasps yourself, you can always spray Demon down the wasps holes. The method is simple, and all you need is a sprayer. You mix a packet of Demon with a gallon of water and this highly potent stuff kills on contact. This could be a simple solution when nothing else seems to be working and it is a lot cheaper than hiring an exterminator for a couple of annoying cicada killers.

Feedback Wanted

Your feedback is greatly appreciated. If you have used another method of treatment not mentioned here, please let us know--whether or not it did or didn't work. And I'm also curious if anyone has ever been stung by one of these bees! If so was it more painful than a normal wasp?


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    • Arlene 3 months ago

      Hubby was just stung on his ankle by one and the pain was horrific. Said it felt like a huge needle was stuck into his ankle. Applied meat tenderizer and after a while the pain decreased.

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 3 months ago from Texas

      Thanks for sharing

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 3 months ago from Texas

      My problem is now they are nesting in a neighbor's yard and I can't even locate the holes and now they come to my yard to torment me and I can't get to the root of the problem now lol

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 3 months ago from Texas

      I feel your pain

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 3 months ago from Texas

      Everything that I've ever read says they don't nest in moist ground. Thanks for the info

    • C.B. fLORIDA 4 months ago


    • Anonymous 4 months ago

      We have had a problem with these Cicada Killers since we have moved into our new home. I have tried multiple methods. Gasoline, soap, deet, covering holes, burning holes.. And nothing worked! One day I decided to use finger nail polish remover. WOW. It works great! One touch of finger polish on their hide and they're dead. Praise the Lord Jesus for this idea! All the glory is God's! (:

    • Amy 4 months ago

      I've tried almost everything..... marking the holes only to find 50 new ones the next day. I have tried ammonia, gas, water, blocking the hole....The sheer amount of liquid for hundreds and hundreds of holes isn't reasonable. The exterminator wouldn't guarantee that it would do anything because there were new nests every day..... I need to mow the area and I have guests that won't come because they are fearful with allergies. I try to run a B&B and liability is an issue. I can't just leave them because it gets worse. I live in a sandy area and this summer we had little rain...... I spray about 300 a day and go out as often as I can. :(

    • Jane 5 months ago

      We had about 45 holes in our yard I think we kill most of the wasp still have a few to go - we have had a wet summer for South Jersey we also have a stream that runs under our area nothing seems to deter these wasp. We used both ammonia and boric acid. Hopefully we have killed the wasp and the nest and don't have a repeat of this summer.

    • Martin 5 months ago

      I used half a can of the wasp killer on one only 3 feet from me. He got pissed but was still able to fly off. I am going gasoline but always light it and stand back with the water hose. Have done it to other bees in the yard for many years. As for wet yard, that is b/s as I live in NC with constant wet yard. Does not bother them one bit. If gas doesn't work I am going boric acid. Had it dropped in the house for Brown Recluse Spiders and seems everything but standard house fly's have been effected by it.

    • kandainv 5 months ago

      I found a novel way to keep these pests under control, I shoot them with .22 birdshot. I have a very small Crickett single shot and a plentiful supply of birdshot. I wait for them to land near their hole or on a corn stalk and blast them from about 4 ft away. A bit more expensive than conventional methods, but really fun. Make sure this is legal in your area before attempting!!

    • KristenFurgus 5 months ago

      I had about 30 to 40 piles of dirt in my front lawn so I had to do something. The piles of dirt kill the lawn. This was a serious increase from about 5 holes last year. What people don't tell you is when you pour the ammonia down the hole, the little critters get mad and, more often than not, climb out of the hole and they sound angry. I have been marking the holes with plastic forks and found the forks work really well to eliminate the cicada killers as they climb out of the hole. You may have to trap them with your foot and slowly side back to properly impale them. I take them over to the cement and crush them to make sure they are gone. And, then I cover the hole to ensure that their friends don't come back. I have gone from 5 to 10 new holes a day and dozens flying around in my front yards to now only one new hole this morning (already eliminated and hole covered) and maybe zero to two flying around. I have probably killed around 60; we had a serious infestation. I think my method of taking them out one at a time is working. I will be ready next year!

    • Penna girl 5 months ago

      Ok, I'm fine with not killing these things, especially since the consensus seems to be that not much kills them anyway, but if I'm not going to kill them, I want them to all to relocate away from my very small yard... any suggestions?

    • jim bell 5 months ago

      I tried using fire ant killer on them. The white powder from Ortho that smells really bad. I dumped about a tablespoon in and around the hole and it got rid of them.

    • conni..iowa 5 months ago

      Bleach isn't working anymore.. it seemed to work the first 2 nights, but the 3rd night it came out of its hole and I had to drop a brick on it. And tonight doing the bleach again on 2 holes, and they each came out. I picked up the bleach bottle and headed for the door, and unknowing to me one was on the bottle. I threw the bottle and it landed on the step, I stepped on it, as for the 2nd one that came out, I don't know if it survived, I left it and ran inside. I'm very allergic to bees.

    • Audrey TX 6 months ago

      I beg to differ about them not nesting in moist ground! The ground under the AC drain is always saturated and they have a nest next to the drain pan. 2/3 of a can of wasp and hornet spray didn't kill a single one. I'm leaning towards using gasoline...worried about killing the grass but getting desperate

    • Tom7777777 6 months ago

      I got rid of my Cicada Killer Wasps.

      They nested in my front walkway for 7 years. The walk way was bricks in sand. The mailman and other delivery people would not come to the front door in July due to the terrifying appearance of these wasps.

      I used an organic insect spray made with mint that I bought at home depot; the wasps would leave for a day, then return. Since they seemed to dislike mint, I left out small branches of mint, and the wasps stayed away. Then I planted a small patch of mint 15-20 feet from the nest site. The wasps have not been back for the past 5 years.

    • Rosyc 6 months ago

      I get really good exercise during the month they are active. I have a tennis racket to swing at them. Really fun and when they fall to the ground then I smash them with the racket. They have never stung us in all the years we do this. Liquid Sevin mixed with water and poured down the holes works well also.

    • NC 6 months ago

      The males don't even sting.......and the females will only sting if handled roughly or stepped on......They are intimidating, yes....but dangerous, no......I'm to the point myself that I've just accepted em for the 2 months they are here and leave em be. They got under my concrete steps out back and eradication is next to possible

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 2 years ago from Texas

      Let us know how it works. I hear it kills eggs and all

    • In NJ 2 years ago

      I have quite a few mounds and dozens of them flying around for the past month. I've had the exterminator here twice already. It does NOTHING. The exterminators spray a topical type poison as well as a granular one on the mounds. They do not do a hole search/spray. My neighbor used a different exterminator and it is the same thing. If the cicada killers were in a non-traffic part of my property they probably wouldn't bother me so much. They are by the end of my driveway where kids play and wait for bus. My kids friends are afraid as well. Soooo..I know many will not agree with me but I'm taking matters into my own hands. I am buying liquid boric acid and a funnel tomorrow. I'm going to wait until dusk and drop the stuff down as many holes as I can find. WHen I lived in NY/Hoboken apts, boric acid in corners def kept roaches away. I'm going for it!!! ----Fed up mom in NJ!

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 2 years ago from Texas

      Yeah I'm deathly afraid of them and dread going outside in the summer once I spot one. I hadn't seen one yet this year until lady week when I was trimming branches on a tree and all of a sudden out of nowhere one starts dive bombing me and chasing me. I don't have dirt in my yard either anymore so I think it's hole is at the neighbors house so there's nothing I can do to get rid of the beast. And I agree, I don't care what they add to the ecosystem, I wanna enjoy being outdoors in the summertime and not get harassed by these monsters. Try boric acid...it supposedly kills the baby's and eggs if u know where the best is. It's cheap you should try it and let us know if it works.

    • Joanne 2 years ago

      I either have 8 of these nesting in my lawn or one that keeps moving when I spray the nest with hornet spray, which hasn't killed it. My yard is lawn not dirt & I was watering the lawn for many days in a row & it still made nests. So annoying in the back yard around the pool. Don't care what they add to the ecosystem. There are plenty of low traffic areas in the yard they could have chosen instead.

    • Tracymn 2 years ago

      The Great Golden Digger Wasp is a beneficial insect to most gardens, hunting insects that can cause damage to gardener's beloved plants. They also are great pollinators, feeding on nectar. They are NOT aggressive and very very rarely sting humans. In fact, the "darting around" you describe is a characteristic of this species that is often afraid to get too close to humans and other insects so they try to spend as little time on each flower as possible, going from one to the next to avoid interactions with other species.

      Anyone in this comment thread that describes being stung by multiple Great Golden Digger Wasps is wrong, they are misidentifying the species. Great Golden Digger wasps are solitary; they do not have hives and do not travel in groups stinging people. What stung you was not a Great Golden Digger Wasp.

      Do not kill these wasps, they are not aggressive and integral to a garden ecosystem. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone. Pollinators are in decline and they do not need people indiscriminately killing them for no reason. If they scare you that's your problem, not theirs. They won't hurt you so don't go into your backyard with Boric Acid and Gasoline and think you are doing anyone any favors by killing them. Educate yourselves on the differences between pollinators that are harmless versus other species that actually sting.

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 3 years ago from Texas

      Omg...good luck! You are much braver than I am. Be careful

    • david breaux 3 years ago

      What's in my 1acre yard along a canal is not big at all. But hundreds in size and aggressive like a killer bee!

      My daughter screaming came running as they swarmed around her.

      I ran to her and immediately squeezed around her ponytail where about 40 looked to be. I continued brushing them off her, behind her ear I could see one locked on bite~ing her.

      I open my hand from her hair and it hadn't look to of killed a single one? (but all this happen in seconds)

      I continued brushing them off and Sierra was also, along with moving towards our hot tub, where she was shooting for the whole time.

      She was bitten over 10 times easily!

      I ran for Benadryl as soon as I felt I had removed all from her hair and clothing that could continue bite~ing her.

      Amazingly calm and obviously in pain she clearly gets everything I've preaches about staying calm as possible to manage shock.

      She did need confirmation of being ok, I iced the bites as she sat soaking in the hot tub, after about 30 to 45 minutes she was coughing that worried us both, so we drove to a quick care that was minutes from the house, as well closing. We got in and seen, they gave her a shot to help fight the poison, some amino acids I think?

      We went home as the pain continued, she eventually fell to sleep with ice packs.

      Upon waking at around 6 am she said the pain was gone? Other than the hip, from the shot.

      Im amazed my 12 yr old girl reacted with unbelievable Prudence, if that's fitting, I am proud of her bravery in the clutches of such chaos .

      Part 2: my method of destroying there existence on my property?

      A huge best I've located, and been studying, from 30 ft I landed a large rock into one hole they poured from and into my hair in under a few seconds!

      Tonight in full home made wasp keeper suit I will try to video, and post, either there death or mine?

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 3 years ago from Texas

      andy b...sorry to hear that...i have trouble even finding their holes sometimes and sometimes I think they are flying over from a neighbors yard---but what can you do? LOL

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 3 years ago from Texas

      Yikes!!! I think I would have called the exterminator in the first place! LOL I wouldn't recommend trying to fend off that many yourself. I heard about this stuff called "Demon" that you get at the pest control place that supposedly kills EVERYTHING, including scorpions and in TX it only costs $20 for 3 applications of the stuff. Maybe that would work. I sprayed it all over my yard (even though its for the house, but i hate bugs) and insects like june bugs seem to die seconds after they hit the window where i sprayed it. Maybe its worth a try if you don't wanna have an exterminator come out, i don't know how expensive they are there in Cali. But thanks for letting me know about ammonia not working for you. I"ve only seen one ground digger wasp this year and dive bombed my head the other day. Ugh. I can't imagine more than that.

    • andy b 3 years ago

      wet soil does not stop them digging in my raised garden bed

    • Humbled 3 years ago

      Just tried the ammonia. Long story short, didn't seem to work. I'm in southern california and have golden digger wasps. It seemed to just piss them off. They have made approximately 50 dens (holes) in a section of my yard that is bare dirt, flat, and dry. It's approximately 10 feet wide by 60 feet long. The holes are shallow with very small dirt mounds cast off to the side. I was able to see the wasp in the hole just .25"-.5" below the surface. I waited until after dark and I poured the ammonia on them. Some holes appeared empty, perhaps having eggs. In the holes where I could see a wasp, when I poured the ammonia they woke up. They emerged from the hole and I had to use my boot on 3 of them. Then came the forth one, he/she came out and buzzed my head pretty good. After that I decided to call it a night. I will call an exterminator in the morning.

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 4 years ago from Texas

      Yeah I agree gas does sound dangerous...those were just other effective methods other people have posted that worked for them. I personally hadn't tried that one--in all honesty I made someone else do the dirty work all together, I'm not chancing getting near one of them...but truly I'm more afraid of cicadas, but we have so many of those we would need an army of the wasps to get rid of them, thanks for the comment.

    • Angelo52 4 years ago

      Seems these wasps, unlike yellow jackets, mostly go around killing other insects - locusts being one as you stated. Guess it's a matter of which you would rather have around - the locust or the wasp.

      At least if they become a nuisance the information provided in your article can help in getting rid of them.

      I'd be careful about using gasoline. Besides the potential for great harm to life and property from burning or even explosion, gasoline is bad for the environment.

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 4 years ago from Texas

      They scare me...but so do cicadas! I usually don't go outside much if I see either. Thanks for commenting!

    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 4 years ago from Only In Texas!

      Well, I just leave these little critters alone. They have a purpose, and we certainly have plenty of cicadas to spare. They also eat big spiders like Wolf spiders and Tarantulas, not that I have any problem with either of them! ;D

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