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Cicada killer wasps creating a buzz around Omaha

Posted at 4:43 PM, Jul 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 17:05:51-04

It is a bad time to be a cicada, as this is the time of year the cicada killer wasps are out in full force.

These wasps measure up to two inches long. They can be intimidating and scary when you first see them. But, UNL Extension entomologist Jonathan Larson says don't worry.

"In terms of being worried about them, I would put them pretty low on the list. They don't have a colony, so they are not a defensively minded insect like a honey bee or a yellow jacket would be. And they're generally just going about their own business in your lawn and landscape," Larson said.

The females do have stingers but are unlikely to sting you.

"Unless you're a cicada in the sky, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. The female does use it on the cicadas so she can paralyze them, but they're not interested in people. They don't have a queen to protect or fellow workers to protect, so generally speaking, they're not a sting hazard," explains Larson.

And the males are even less of a hazard.

"The male is aggressive. He will fly towards your face, he'll try to hover in front of you and check you out, but he doesn't have a stinger. He's all bark and no bite. He has a pseudo-stinger that can't do anything to us," adds Larson.

If you think cicada killer wasps are in your yard, keep an eye out for piles of soil.

"They usually create a pretty distinct pile of soil outside of the burrow. So the female is the one doing all of the digging. She burrows down and makes a u-shaped entrance and then pushes all the soil out of it. so you'll see usually a couple inches high worth of soil mounded up," says Larson.

Although they are mostly harmless to us, there are a few ways to keep them away or get rid of them.

"If you've got a lot of them in your landscape, try to change the landscape up a bit. Water it with a sprinkler to drive them away, put more mulch down, change it to pebble mulch in certain spots, seal up your retaining wall. If all of those fail, you can use insecticidal dust down in the entrance to the nest and that will kill the female as she crawls in and out," suggests Larson.

If you're ever unsure which kind of wasp has taken up domain near you, you can contact the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension office.