Wasps That Live Underground

Updated July 20, 2017

People often assume that wasps live above ground because they are most commonly seen flying around and nesting on porches and windowsills. But some wasps create their hives overground, making tunnels for large colonies to live together. Similarly, some wasp species live by themselves, nesting underground to deposit their eggs and then moving on. Underground-living wasps also have a tendency to paralyse prey, which they then take to their tunnels for food.

Yellow Jackets

Yellow jacket wasps are small yellow and black wasps that build colonies under the ground. They are extremely active throughout the warmer months, but lay dormant in the winter when temperatures drop below freezing. They can be aggressive scavengers in the fall season as they collect food and things to build their nests with, often choosing to set up home in old rodent holes.

Cicada Killers

Cicada killers are so named because of the female wasp's ability to paralyse a cicada and bury them in underground tunnels for her young to feed on. This particular species of wasp can get up to 2 inches in length at full maturity. They are black with yellow markings and have rusty-coloured wings. Unlike yellow jacket wasps, cicada killers don't live in colonies. Instead they live fairly solitary lives. After filling a tunnel with two cicadas and one egg, the female wasp will seal off the tunnel and move on. The grubs hatch, feed on the cicadas and then emerge the following summer as a mature wasp.

Threadwaisted Wasp

Threadwaisted wasps are blue and gold digger wasps that sleep overnight in the ground but then rise early in the morning and spend their day hunting for food. They, like the cicada killer wasp, are a solitary species that lay their eggs and then leave their young behind.

Golden Digger Wasps

Golden digger wasps grow to be 1 inch long and have a reddish orange abdomen with a black tip. They build tunnels to lay their eggs and, like cicada killers, have the ability to paralyse a variety of prey to leave in their tunnels for their young once the eggs have hatched. Grasshoppers and crickets are two of the common insects paralysed and left behind.

Scoliid Wasps

Scoliid wasps have a black head and neck, black wings, and bright orange and yellow markings. This particular species of wasps are also solitary and grow to be about three-fourths of an inch long. Like the wasps listed above, the female wasp stings and paralyses insects, although scoliid wasps tend to focus on beetle grubs. Once paralysed, the female will lay her eggs on the beetle. The female then builds a chamber around the egg and beetle so that when the egg hatches the baby scoliid wasp can feed on the beetle grub.

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About the Author

Claire Louise started writing professionally in 2007. She has written for the "Newcastle Morning Herald" and had diet and fitness-related articles published in "Slimming and Health" magazine. Louise holds a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Newcastle.