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How to Get Rid of Cicada Killer Wasps

I am a Texas native who has dealt with the ordeal of cicada killer wasps nesting in my yard.

A cicada killer wasp.

A cicada killer wasp.

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 insects. They put bumblebees to shame when it comes to size.

The ground digger wasp is roughly 0.6-2 inches in length (closer to three 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 bumblebee. Even if they don't sting, they are very frightening due to their enormous size.

They prey on cicadas and carry them back to their underground den. For those of you who know how big a cicada is, can you imagine the size of a wasp that can prey on one? Scary thought, isn't it?

For a higher chance of success, wait until the evening to approach these burrows. The insects will be out during the day to hunt.

For a higher chance of success, wait until the evening to approach these burrows. The insects will be out during the day to hunt.

How to Get Rid of Ground Digger Wasps Naturally or With Chemicals

If you only have a couple of ground digger wasps flying around, then you can probably eliminate the problem yourself. If you have more than four or five that are constantly around, an exterminator may be considered. Below will be some methods on how to handle these wasps yourself.

It's understandable that you want to get rid of these pests in an environmentally-friendly fashion. Chemical methods may cause some harm to your yard and they may be risky if you have pets. One safe method only involves the use of a glass bowl and boiling water.

How to Get Rid of Ground Digger Wasps Naturally

  1. The first step to eliminating this pest is locating their den. Remember, they dig into the ground, so you will be looking for a hole the size of a penny or nickel 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 has no ants present.
  2. Once you find these holes/mounds (there is a picture below that shows exactly what you are looking for), mark them with something like a stake, stick, or a plastic knife. This will make the holes easier to find at nighttime when you will begin your attack.
  3. Wait until night to go out to the burrows. These wasps leave their dens during the day and hunt for cicadas, so it is best to wait until nighttime when they have returned back home before you try to eliminate them.
  4. Boil some water and place it in your container of preference. You could use a pot or a pitcher. How much water you boil depends on how many burrows you are dealing with. Make sure you have a sufficient amount. Be sure to grab a flashlight to help with visibility (preferably one that is not too bright so as not to attract the wasps). Also, make sure you have a glass bowl for every hole.
  5. Pour the boiling water down the hole. Quickly cover the entrance of the burrow with a glass bowl and leave it on.
  6. Check the bowl in the morning. If the wasp did not die from the water, it will be trapped by the bowl. It will eventually suffocate or die from the hot sun.
  7. Recover any dead wasps and consider covering the burrows. If you still see some wasps flying around, you may have missed a nest. Search again for any burrows.

Chemical Methods to Get Rid of Cicada Killers

You may need to use stronger substances to get rid of ground digger wasps. Below are some potential chemicals and insecticides you can use. Remember to be mindful of any pets you have around.

  • Bleach: This chemical is more unorthodox, but it can kill the female wasp. Keep in mind that it will not kill the eggs.
  • 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. However, it will not kill the eggs.
  • Boric Acid: This stuff is gold. You can get a bottle of boric acid on Amazon for under $30. I'll add a link below. This will kill both the female and the eggs. So that means no returning wasps the next year.

This Boric Acid Worked for Me

Pesticides for Cicada Killers

If for whatever reason the household products fail to eradicate these insects, there are still a couple of other things you can try before calling in a professional. These methods require you to purchase a professional grade pesticide but apply it yourself.

  • Hornet Spray: You can buy a variety of hornet sprays that shoot up to 25 feet and unload a massive amount into each hole. These wasps will sting if provoked and will protect their nests, so aim well and give yourself some space. It is recommended that you wear some type of protective clothing.
  • Demon WP: This insecticide works by mixing a packet of Demon with a gallon of water and pouring it into a sprayer. It is recommended that you use this spray between the months of July and September so you can get the wasps early in their life cycle. This spray can continue to work for three months.
  • Pyrethrin-based powder: Pyrethrin is actually what some professional exterminators use when they come to take care of the problem. 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. You can spread this powder around the nest. Be sure to keep children and pets away until the dust has settled.
  • Drione Dust:This is a silica-based dust with natural pyrethrum. It immediately kills wasps and can even absorb their odors and pheromones. This helps prevent other wasps from coming in again.
  • Cypermethrin: You may consider using a liquid concentrate if you have a large number of nests in your yard. A mixture of this insecticide can last for two to four weeks. It is also effective in killing eggs and larvae.

My Experience With Cypermethrin

I have been able to get rid of cicada killer wasps successfully using a pint of Cypermethrin like the product featured below.

After locating several cicada killer holes in my yard, I armed myself with my Cypermethrin and simply squirted the liquid down into the holes.

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Within minutes, several cicada killers emerged from the holes, noticeably weak and dying. The wasps were unable to fly and were dead within a few minutes.

The only problem I had using liquid Cypermethrin was that it only killed the wasps that were present at the time I administered it. I did notice that any residual liquid that seeped into the soil was still strong enough to kill the stragglers.

This product was safe and easy to use. Once the liquid dries it is not toxic to children or pets. This stuff is strong and kills insects that come in contact with it.

This Cypermethrin Product Works Best

My Experience Using Delta Dust

Season after season I have battled these insects and they always seem to reappear. So I continue to try different products and methods of elimination.

Since Pyrethrin-based products are most effective on wasps, I decided to try a Pyrethrin powder (like the one used in the video above).

After reading product reviews I finally decided on Delta Dust. I also purchased a "puffer" to blow the powder further into the holes. I shot puffs of Delta Dust into every hole I came across. Since the cicada killers do not need to be present in their holes with Delta Dust, I administered the dust during the daylight while the wasps were out hunting. I made sure to coat the tunnels entirely with the dust so that when the wasps returned home they would make contact with the powder and die.

Using this product, I didn't actually see the cicada killers die off; however, I stopped noticing any sign of their existence. They completely disappeared. If they didn't die, at least they left and found a new home. This product was a win for me either way.

Try Delta Dust for Fast Results

Do Cicada Killers Sting?

Despite their intimidating appearance, these wasps are pretty mild-mannered. They are not aggressive toward humans and will generally not sting unless they are provoked, such as being grabbed. You should always be cautious if you are allergic to insect stings but you could probably walk around places where they are gathered and not attract any attention.

It should be noted that only females possess stingers. Their sting may be painful, if only because their stingers are relatively large.

Males don't have a stinger but they do have a sharp spine at the tip of their abdomen that they try to attack with. The males are fairly aggressive and territorial but they pose no real threat with the lack of a stinger. Both male and female wasps may try to bite with their large jaws but these can't do any real damage to people.

Preventive Measure for Cicada Killers

Here are some steps you can take to prevent ground digger wasps from coming to or returning to your yard:

  • Watering and fertilizing your grass can create a thick, lush growth. This can prevent the cicada killer from digging into your lawn.
  • Covering a wasp hole or filling it with mulch can deter the wasps if you block them when they first appear. Drenching the burrows can be effective as well.
  • Frequently water the soil around your home so that it is consistently damp and moist. The wasps prefer soil that is dry and solid since it is easier to dig through.

What Is the Cicada Killer Lifecycle?

You'll see cicada killers start to appear during the months of June and July. This is when they reach adulthood and are out burrowing tunnels and hunting cicadas for their own larvae when they hatch. They will die off around September or October. A larva will spend the winter in a cocoon and will go through pupation during the spring. They will emerge from their burrows in the summer and begin the cycle again.