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Cicada Killer Wasp Invasion! HELP!!!


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35 replies to this topic

#1 of 36 Nils Luehrmann

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Posted July 23 2004 - 08:24 AM

I am in the midst of a serious battle with the following creature:

Posted Image

We had three of these monsters appear around our rear deck last summer. I tried to find their hive to kill them, but they appeared to live under ground in tunnels. I ended up killing them with my tennis racket and never saw any others for the rest of the year.

Unfortunately this year they are back with a vengeance. So far I've probably killed close to a dozen of these, but can regularly see half a dozen or so flying about the back deck area and yard.

I called a couple pest exterminators, and the first couldn't even tell me what species it was and even thought it may be some kind of giant yellow jacket. The second properly identified it as a Sphecius Speciosus AKA Cicada Killer.

Here's what A&M's Entomology database had listed:
Quote:
One of the largest wasps encountered; Cicada killers nest in sandy areas, digging burrows about 6 inches deep before turning and extending another 6 or more inches. Tunnels may be branched and end in one or more globular cells. Females are solitary, each provisioning their own nests even though they appear to be nesting in a common area. Nest entrances are often accompanied by a pile of soil excavated from the burrow that may disturb turfgrass.

Cicada killers are active during July and August, coinciding with the appearance of cicadas which they attack, sting and paralyze. They then fly, glide or drag the cicadas back to their nests, provisioning the cells in their burrows. Larvae feed only on cicadas, and the adult will feed on flower nectar.

Winter is spent in the larval or pupal stage. Adults emerge in the summer, feed, mate and produce new nesting burrows. The female provisions each cell in the burrow with one or more paralyzed cicadas on which an egg is deposited, and then seals it. The larva hatches from the egg develops through several molts (instars) before pupating inside a woven, spindle-shaped brown case measuring up to 1 1/4 inch long. One generation occurs per year.

Large numbers of females nesting in localized areas such as sandy embankments can be a nuisance and cause concern because of their large size, low flight and nesting activities.

So my question is - how do I get rid of these beasts???

We have a 2yr old that loves to play outside around and on the deck, but with this invasion, other than waiting until September we have been forced to keep him from that area.

The pest control companies we talked to said they would not be able to rid us of the wasps due to their particular solitary underground nesting habbits.

Have any of you encountered these same creatures and if so, how did you go about getting rid of them?

BTW: I tried using a bright yellow bowl filled with sugar water and dish soap, as flower nectar is their main source of food, but so far I've only killed about three that way over a period of two weeks. Where as with my racket I was able to kill several in one day.

My concern is that the larvae will hatch next year and the cycle wont get broken until I can figure away to get rid of the larvae.

I'm almost tempted to pour concrete under the deck area!

#2 of 36 Jason_Els

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Posted July 23 2004 - 09:26 AM

I wager that the coinciding 17-year brood has increased the numbers of these birds beyond what they would normally be. My suggestions is to sit tight and let it pass OR invest in a few large pots of Sarracenia. Wasps, bees, hornets, and yellowjackets LOVE Sarracenia and the Sarracenia will devour alarming quantities of stinging insects (and others). Problem is finding Sarracenia large enough and in pots so you can put them on your porch but where you live I imagine most nurseries would have them. You'd need large, mature plants. Try a variety of leucophylla, rubra, and definitely flava (which seems to be the favorite of yellowjackets).
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#3 of 36 John Watson

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Posted July 23 2004 - 05:14 PM

I can't believe hardly anyone's posting about this. The thing is at least 6 inches long on my screen!

You could try silica, but small arms might be in order. Posted Image

Seriously, do they sting people, or just cicadas?

#4 of 36 Chris

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Posted July 23 2004 - 06:41 PM

The normal solution is to mulch the ground which harvests them and lay down fine grass. However, that isn't a solution if it's under your deck.

Since these are considered a "minor" pest and many places want them due to their disruption of Cicadas (and without them they tend to die off or migrate). They are almost entirely non-agressive, they almost never attack, because their body weight isn't designed for it. So many termination places will tell you to do nothing (probably what you've been told) http://pested.unl.ed...re/chapt_12.pdf

http://tinyurl.com/4sy96 - In general, these buggers are your friends. If you can avoid killing them, do.

http://tinyurl.com/4e4dd - and they save your lawn Posted Image

Now, if you need to get rid of them, and it's important for psychological reasons, then there are ways.

There is a micro-dust powder that Terminix keeps that they can blow down that will kill these suckers within a short period. It is the same solution they use for yellowjackets and mud wasps, and has been found to be effective. Some have found that using flower-scented bleach also works. HOWEVER, this is a serious hazard if you have children or animals, because if they drink that stuff, it is fatal.
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#5 of 36 BrianW

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Posted July 24 2004 - 01:17 AM

When I was a kid, I used to tie fine thread to captured cicadas and fly them around like tethered toy airplanes. While this was fun in and of itself, the primary reason I did this was to attract cicada killers and watch them dive for and capture the tethered cicadas. It was an astonishing sight to see these flying tank busters in action. if I had had a video camera, I would have been able to capture some amazing footage.

I can tell you from personal experience that these frightening-looking insects are totally non-aggressive and take almost no notice of humans. They're almost non-territorial, unlike bumblebees and other nesting wasps, and not very social, meaning that killing or angering one probably won't cause others to launch a holy war against you.

If you can get past their frightening looks, intimidating size, and buzz-bomb sound and begin to appreciate their beauty, skill, and quite humble behavior, they can be very interesting to have around.

Think of them as the whale sharkes of the flying-invertabrate world. If I had a nest of them in my back yard, I know I'd be reaching for the video camera instead of the bug poison.
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#6 of 36 SethH

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Posted July 24 2004 - 01:48 AM

Can you find the entrance to their nest? If so, go out well after dark (when most are in there) and pour gasoline down the tunnel. That should take care of most of them.

#7 of 36 brentl

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Posted July 24 2004 - 05:46 AM

After Brians decription I feel that I should find a couple and hug them!

B

#8 of 36 BrianW

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Posted July 24 2004 - 10:01 AM

Hey, don't get me wrong. I know these things can be terrifying. Even today, my heart still skips a beat between the moment I spot one and the instant I identify it.

The timing of this thread is somewhat amusing to me. I just finished (FINALLY!!!) watching the third Lord of the Rings movie for the first time last night, and some of the battle scenes actually made me think of my childhood attempts to observe and tame the flying Nazgul warriors in my neighborhood.

Even my daughter, who was watching with me, said, "Wow, those things are almost as scary as a cicada killer!"

Truer words were never spoken.
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#9 of 36 Karl_Luph

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Posted July 26 2004 - 04:04 AM

Hi Nils, great thread, timely too!! I'm down here in Houston and just this last weekend a bunch of these wasps have built a nest under the wood decking of my back porch. I'm not sure where the nest is, they just seem to be appearing all over the place,lol! I'd guess there are 20 of them, hard to say because they come and go . I know one thing, I don't feel safe walking out on the back porch. Do they usually stay around found along time or die off ot leave after a couple of weeks? I have no problem annialating them with wasp spray if that will get rid of them. Has anyone been stung by one of these critters before? Thanks for any helpPosted Image

#10 of 36 Graham Perks

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Posted July 26 2004 - 04:27 AM

What are the decently sized reddish-brown wasps flying around my back yard? They keep low to the top of the grass and appear to be grazing the lawn. I don't know what they're after. I see several of them; they haven't acted aggresively yet.

Anything that flies and buzzes freaks me out so I'm very wary around these guys. Even though I haven't heard any buzz from them yet.

#11 of 36 Nils Luehrmann

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Posted July 26 2004 - 07:22 AM

Chris,

Thanks for the links - there was definitely some excellent information to be found.

I'm not sure if I will ever 'embrace' a cicada killer like Brian, but it does appear that they are not much of a danger. The fact that only the males are aggressive, but can't sting is certainly reassuring.

For myself, I'm not even concerned about getting stung by a female, but I certainly don't want my children to get stung - especially because if by chance they have an allergic reation it could be fatal. As a father I simply wont take that kind of risk.

As far as them being beneficial, I guess I don't see all that much benefit as they certainly aren't going to be able to kill all the cicadas in our area, and the only nuisance a cicada causes around here is their noise, which you can't even hear from inside the house and frankly isn't that bad where we are.

I think I'll just stick with the "whacking" method as I also have no interest in using a pesticide which might hurt our children and pets.

Next year in June before the new generation emerges I might try the method of spreading a mild toxin over the entrances to each mound and then cover the entire area with a clear plastic sheet and stake it. This method seems sound and should end the cycle at least for a couple years.


BTW: Click here for another really useful site regarding Cicada Killers.

And for those wondering just how big these guys are here is a photo of one next to a large hornet:

Posted Image

The male Cicada Killers are considerably smaller than the females, but they will still dwarf all other wasps that I've seen.

#12 of 36 Joe Szott

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Posted July 26 2004 - 07:34 AM

You ever try a yellowjacket/wasp trap from Home Depot, or are they too big for it? We use them in our yard in Denver, catches probably 40-60 wasps in a summer that would be nesting by our house otherwise. All you have to do is empty out the trap every 8 weeks or so and refresh the pherenome "bait". The trap is just a big piece of plastic that has a hole they can climb in but their instinct won't let them climb back to it to get out (the physical design kind of short circuits their brain.)

Check one out at your local Home Depot or Walmart, they work great and are reusable.

#13 of 36 Nils Luehrmann

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Posted July 26 2004 - 07:46 AM

Quote:
What are the decently sized reddish-brown wasps flying around my back yard? They keep low to the top of the grass and appear to be grazing the lawn. I don't know what they're after. I see several of them; they haven't acted aggresively yet.

Graham,

We see a lot of those as well. They are called Polistes Metricus/Carolina (AKA Paper Wasps, and yes, they are very quiet.

Posted Image
Posted Image

As you have already discovered they are not aggressive at all, and like the Cicada Killers, only the females can sting. The big difference though is that they live in a hive/nest and if the nest is disturbed they will get very aggressive. They are very easy to kill if you spray the nest after nightfall - just be sure to remove all traces of the nest or else new wasps will rebuild a nest in the same location.

Unlike Cicada Killers, Paper Wasps really are beneficial as they generally feed on insects considered to be lawn pests like grubs and caterpillars.

Considering we have small children, my general rule is to destroy nests that are easily reached, and leave those that are high up in the eaves of our 2nd story roof alone.

I have had them occasionally land on me while doing some yard work, but not once have they ever been aggressive or stung me, but with small children around I'd still recommend at the very least minimizing their numbers and keep nests from being built any where below 10' from the ground to insure they don't get riled up.

#14 of 36 BrianW

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Posted July 27 2004 - 01:13 PM

If they bother you, then by all means, exterminate them. I think they're cool, but in a mechanical-wonder sort of way, not a cutesy-wootesy sort of way. A foaming wasp-hornet spray works best for burrowing wasps, since the foam clings to the walls of the burrow instead of soaking into the ground. But you do have to find the burrow opening. Following one as it flies under the deck should give you a clue where to spray. Given their diet, I'm not sure a wasp trap would work on them, but it might be worth a try.

Paper wasps aren't allowed anywhere on my lawn, even in high up places. It's just too difficult not to disturb them while I'm out doing yard work. Admittedly, they truly are not aggressive unless you do something very threatening, like weed-whack a fence post or prune a tree limb their nest is on.

And bumblebees aren't allowed anywhere in sight. Once they have their eyes set on your property, these super-aggressive and highly territorial critters will take out a lean on your house and hold your dog hostage if you're not diligent to keep them at bay. Unlike regular honeybees, these things actually go out looking for trouble.

One of the more remarkable insects I've recently discovered (well, a few years ago, anyway) is a small moth that mimics a wasp. In addition to looking very much like a wasp, it imitates wasp behavior by periodically buzzing its wings after it's landed on something. If you catch one and examine it, you'll find that it has feathered moth antennae. It's wings, though narrow and striped, are not transparent membrane wings like a wasp would have, though you'd be hard-pressed to notice this while it's in flight. And the fuzz on its body refracts light in such a way as to make its body look smooth and shiny. And, of course, there's no stinger. They come out in October and fly around the fall clover until almost Thanksgiving. If I can remember, I'll post a photograph.

Thanks for all the great pictures and links, everyone! Cool thread!
-Brian
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#15 of 36 DaViD Boulet

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Posted July 28 2004 - 07:47 AM

Just put sheet plastic or a tarp under your deck to cover the dry sand that they would normally burrow in. Be careful to weight down the edge with stones (or cover the whole thing with stones) so they can't get under the edge.

They are not agressive and as long as your kids are made aware of them and told not to disturb them there shouldn't be any problems. I grew up with all sorts of insects in my yard-stinging and otherwise...and the only real problems I ever had getting stung were stepping on honey bees and bumble bees that were feeding on clover or dandylion blossoms in the grass (when walking barefoot).

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#16 of 36 Mark Frank

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Posted July 30 2004 - 07:22 AM

This thread made me think of the documentary "Hornets From Hell" about Giant Japanese Hornets that I saw on Discovery or some other channel last week. It gave me the heeby jeebies! Talk about a scary flying, stinging insect!

http://www.olympus.c....f_article.html

Check out the 4:18 streaming video.

An amazing fact - 30 giant hornets can totally wipeout a colony of 30,000 European honeybees in three hours.

#17 of 36 Nils Luehrmann

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Posted April 04 2005 - 03:18 PM

Well with Summer not that far off I think I'm going to start planning on treating the area under the deck and covering it with a tarp to trap the newly hatched Cicada Killers.

Does anyone have any ideas on an effective, but relatively safe toxin?

#18 of 36 Nils Luehrmann

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Posted May 03 2005 - 04:52 AM

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#19 of 36 JonZ

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Posted May 03 2005 - 07:18 AM

I have 3 wasps nests all near each other. One above my garage and the other 2 at a nearby window, behind the window sutters.

I was just gonna get some spray and zap the nests at night.

#20 of 36 Mort Corey

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Posted May 03 2005 - 07:54 AM

This is one of those Texas jokes right? (Everything is bigger) Dang....you grow some BIG bugs down there. Posted Image

Mort (who'd be thinkin' about a roundup if he was in Texas)





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