Lawn Wasps

Updated November 21, 2016

Many species of wasps nest in burrows in the ground. Solitary ground-nesting wasps are usually beneficial, nonaggressive insects. They aerate the soil, pollinate plant species and control nuisance insect species.


Sphecius speciosus, or cicada killer wasps, are native to the eastern United States, while Sphecius grandis, or the western cicada killer, lives in the west. Tiphiid wasps are native to Japan, China and Korea, but they live all across the United States. Scoliid wasps range from New England to Florida.


Cicada killers are about 1.5 inches in length. They are black or rust-coloured with yellow abdominal banding and pointed abdomens. Tiphiid wasps are around 1.75 inches long; they are solid black and shiny. Scoliid wasps are around .75 inches in length. They are usually black with orange or yellow markings.


Female cicada killers paralyse cicadas with their venom. They carry the insects back to their burrows and place them in nest cells. The female lays an egg on the still-living insect. The larva hatches in a few days and eats the cicada. Tiphiid and scoliid wasp larvae feed on white grubs, which are the larvae of scarab beetles.

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