Wasps, Yellow Jackets, & Cicada Killers...Among Other Stinging Insects
July 19, 2017
The stinging season is upon us! While there are many bees, wasps, hornets, and even some ants that can sting us and our pets, several of these stinging pests command our attention by virtue of their numbers, size, or aggressiveness. Two of them that immediately come to mind are the cicada killer and the yellow jacket. Both are wasps; the first is a solitary wasp, and the other is a social wasp. Bear in mind that only the females of each species can sting. The males emerge first, mate with the females, and often die shortly thereafter.
While cicada killers are not aggressive, they may sting if handled, trapped under foot, or caught in clothing. Cicada killers, because of their relatively large size (1 1/2” to 2” in length), often cause an unwarranted amount of anxiety in people when they begin showing up in late June and throughout the rest of the summer. Each female cicada killer drills several nests in the soil, wherein she deposits a single paralyzed cicada (upon which a single egg has been placed) and then covers the cell. There may be many females operating in a given area, and - due to their numbers and size - they may cause considerable concern and damage.
Yellow jackets, on the other hand, are an entirely different matter. The females, being social wasps, will create large nests. The more common species in this area, yellow jackets create underground nests that can house several hundred workers and brood. One species creates above ground, or aerial, nests. Regardless of the species, some nests may be as large as a basketball, and both yellow jackets and cicada killers will vigorously and aggressively defend them.
The best, and safest, control of any of the above wasps is conducted at night. Carefully mark the location(s) of these wasps during the day, and then perform the control at night. Do not, as one hapless technician attempted, stick a twig in an active hole during the day. You will be angrily greeted by a number of very aggressive wasps – faster than you can get away! Dusting in and around the hole after dark is the best, and safest, way to eliminate them.